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September 20, 2000
Heartbreak for South Africa, delight for JapanMike Collett
Heart-broken South Africa crashed out of the Olympic Games soccer tournament on Wednesday when they lost 2-1 to Slovakia in Canberra, just days after having a quarter-final place in their grasp following an unforgettable victory over Brazil.
But instead of building on Sunday's 3-1 win -- described by coach Ephraim Mashaba as "the greatest result in South Africa's soccer history", South Africa never got going against Slovakia and lost their chance of reaching the last eight with their poorest display of the competition.
Their defeat, coupled with Brazil's 1-0 win over Japan in Brisbane, meant Brazil and Japan took the top two places in Group D with South Africa eliminated in third spot after one win and two defeats. Slovakia finished fourth.
"I have never seen my players cry after losing a match, but they are crying now," said Mashaba after the shock defeat.
"We never got going. We had stage-fright for the first 20 minutes and just buckled under the pressure."
"The mood in the dressing room is very, very sombre, they are heart-broken. We played better in the second half but could not take our chances and are out. It is a very numbing feeling. I am shattered, but what can you do, what can one say?"
Goals from Juraj Czinge (47) and Jan Slahor (72) put Slovakia ahead, with South Africa's lone goal coming from Benni McCarthy after 75 minutes.
It is the second time in 10 weeks that South Africa have had a tangible prize seemingly ripped from their grasp.
In July they went to Zurich, confident FIFA were going to award them the right to stage the 2006 World Cup finals -- only to lose the Executive Committee's secret ballot by one vote.
Brazil 1 - Japan 0
Brazil had to beat Japan to stand any chance of reaching the quarter-finals and a fifth minute header from skipper Alex proved to be enough to give them three vital points, first place in Group D and more importantly, a place in the last eight.
In a superbly entertaining game at the Brisbane Cricket Ground -- where a crowd record of 36,608 was set -- both sides had chance after chance as the game flowed from end-to-end.
Japan may have lost their 19-match winning streak but coach Philippe Troussier was delighted to have qualified for the last eight.
"We ended with two wins and a loss from three matches, the same record as Brazil, and I am very pleased with that," said the happy Frenchman afterwards.
Brazil coach Wanderley Luxemburgo -- under huge pressure back home to bring the Olympic soccer gold medal to Brazil for the first time -- was also beaming.
"You never stop learning in football," he said. "We learnt a lot from the way we lost to South Africa on Sunday. We put a lot of things right tonight."
Brazil's victory means they now face Cameroon in their quarter-final in Brisbane on Saturday while Japan travel to Adelaide to meet Group C winners United States.
South Korea 1 - Chile 0
South Korea, who played for most of this Group B match with 10 men after midfielder Lee Chun-soo was sent off after 12 minutes, scored a surprise 1-0 victory over Chile in Adelaide, but it was not enough to put them into the quarter-finals -- or knock Chile off top spot in the final group standings.
Chile, Spain and South Korea all finished with six points ahead of Morocco (0 points), but Chile and Spain took the first two places with superior goal differences to South Korea.
Lee Dong-gook scored the only goal after 28 minutes. Chile were without injured striker Ivan Zamorano, although he is expected to be fit to face Nigeria in the quarter-final in Melbourne on Saturday.
Spain 2 - Morocco 0
Spain dominated their final Group D match against Morocco in Melbourne but after taking a 33rd minute lead through Jose Mari, they did not score again until Jose Mari's substitute Gabri headed their second in the last minute to make certain of the runners-up spot and a quarter-final against Italy in Sydney on Saturday.
Morocco's disappointing Olympics ended when they had defender Fouzi Elbrazi sent off in injury time at the end of the second half -- the second Moroccan red carded in the tournament.
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