'Gabigol' rescues Brazil from exit

Brazil's Gabriel Barbosa scored twice to inspire his team to a 4-0 win against Denmark.
Brazil's Gabriel Barbosa scored twice to inspire his team to a 4-0 win against Denmark. PHOTO: EPA

His brace inspires hosts' win over Denmark as they remain on track for first Olympic gold

RIO DE JANEIRO • Brazil dug themselves out of a deep hole by reaching the men's football quarter-finals on Wednesday as their arch-rivals Argentina's game hit a new low following their exit at the group stage.

The hosts found a new football hero in Gabriel Barbosa, who fended off a humiliating early Olympic exit by scoring twice and inspiring his team to a 4-0 win over Denmark.

Argentina needed to win to secure a place in the quarter-finals due to their inferior goal difference with Honduras, but could manage only a 1-1 draw.

Barbosa, nicknamed "Gabigol" for his prolific exploits for Brazilian club Santos, broke Brazil's 200-minute goal drought after goal-less draws with Iraq and South Africa to get the hosts' quest for a first football Olympic gold medal back on track.

"We showed a lot of patience, that was important and the fantasy arrived," said the 19-year-old, a top target for a host of European clubs with English Premier League champions Leicester City at the head of the queue.

Manchester City's new recruit Gabriel Jesus then volleyed home a second goal before Luan and Barbosa's second rounded off a comforting night for a relieved home nation.

"It was a beautiful win. The first two games we didn't play badly, but the goals didn't come and sometimes the fans focus solely on the result," said Barbosa.

Victory was also enough to guarantee top spot in Group A to set up a quarter-final meeting with Colombia tomorrow.

Brazil are now unbeaten in 14 games in Salvador and their display was cheered by an enthusiastic crowd.

Talisman and captain Neymar, who had gone from Brazil's golden boy to whipping boy with the women's team's captain Marta usurping him as the hosts' darling after her sensational displays, shone in a supporting role.

Brazil showed intent and drive, after their opening two inept shows, which has given defender Marquinhos the confidence that they are back in the driving seat to deliver gold at the Maracana on Aug 20.

"The criticism did us good. We had to make the most of it to turn the situation around," he said.

"We have achieved our objective by playing collectively, which is what we lacked, but playing like this we can go even further."

Denmark also progressed to the last eight where they will face Nigeria as the other game in the group between Iraq and South Africa finished 1-1.

In other quarter-final encounters, Germany, who smashed Fiji 10-0, meet Portugal, who drew with Algeria 1-1. South Korea, who beat defending champions Mexico 1-0, take on Honduras.

The golds won in 2004 and 2008 make football Argentina's second most successful Olympic sport. But administrative chaos off the field ended its Olympic team's chances of offering some relief to the heartache of three final losses by the senior team in as many years.

"The directors were in Miami sunbathing and they don't care about Argentinian football," said the country's football great Diego Maradona.

"Honduras can't beat us. I have a lot of respect for them, but they play baseball. They don't know anything about football."

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 12, 2016, with the headline ''Gabigol' rescues Brazil from exit'. Print Edition | Subscribe