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September 24, 2000
Chile emerges as the team to beat
Chile, surprise semi-finalist in the Olympic soccer tournament, sent out a warning to opponents who might underestimate the goal-blitzing South Americans.
Chile blew away defending gold medallists Nigeria in Saturday's quarter-final, scoring two goals in two minutes in the first half on the way to a comprehensive 4-1 win.
"I think they went in overconfident and they underestimated Chile according to comments that were coming out from the Nigerian camp before the game," Chile coach Nelson Acosta said.
"I think Chile started winning from the dressing room."
The victory sets up a semi-final on Tuesday against Cameroon, who scored a major upset by beating South American favourite Brazil with a golden goal in extra-time.
Though Chile top the Olympic competition with 11 goals scored in four matches, Acosta said his players did not consider they had inherited the mantle of the ones to beat for gold despite the demise of hotly fancied Brazil and Italy in Saturday's quarter-finals.
"We don't see ourselves as the favourites. We just want to be remembered as good players that performed well in the competition," Acosta said.
Chile were bolstered by the return of high-profile star Ivan Zamorano after a calf injury, while Rodrigo Tello - - brought back into the team after recovering from a muscular problem -- set up two goals and scored one himself.
Nigeria were without captain Celestine Babayaro and Azubuike Oliseh, both suspended after receiving red cards.
Nigerian coach Jo Bonfrere said Nigeria had set their sights on the semi-finals after their early success in the competition, but on Saturday the team had started nervously and lost confidence as their passes were intercepted.
"Every attack from Chile was dangerous. Our defence did not know what to do in the first half," he said. "Our whole team did not play well."
Nigeria's coaching panel had earlier conceded that the Nigerian team were not up to the class of the 1996 Atlanta team which delivered African soccer its first Olympic champion.
On Tuesday Chile return for their fourth game at the Melbourne Cricket Ground, where they have thrived on the wildly enthusiastic support of thousands of cheering, singing fans, who move on to celebrate outside the team's hotel after each victory.
"It is fundamental for us. It is like feeling at home and as long as we keep winning everything is fine," Acosta said.
Nine-man Cameroon shock Brazil with golden goal
A nine-man Cameroon scored one of the biggest upsets in Olympic soccer history when they beat gold medal favourites Brazil 2-1 in an astonishing quarter-final on Saturday to clinch a place in Tuesday's semi-finals.
The winning golden goal came from substitute Modeste Mbami in the 113th minute when he cracked a scorching right foot drive from the edge of the box past Brazilian keeper Helton.
Cameroon had looked dead and buried going into the extra period after skipper Geremi Njitap had been sent off after 75 minutes and defender Aaron Nguimbat followed him in the last minute of regular time for tripping Brazilian captain Alex.
That foul gave away the free-kick which led to Brazil's equaliser from Ronaldinho.
Cameroon had taken the lead though Patrick Mboma after 17 minutes and were only 12 seconds from the end of the match when Brazil, chasing a first ever Olympic soccer gold, equalised.
Ronaldinho, who had another quiet match after a run of poor games in the group stages, finally made his mark on the tournament, scoring with a right foot free kick which gave 16-year-old keeper Carlos Kameni no chance.
The teenager, preferred to normal first choice Daniel Bekono, had an outstanding game for the African side, producing a series of excellent saves.
Brazil never looked comfortable against a team inspired by Kameni's heroics in goal, a tenacious display from Lauren in midfield and driving performance from Mboma up front.
While Cameroon go to Melbourne for a semifinal against Chile, Brazilian coach Wanderley Luxemburgo faces an uncertain future.
He was under huge pressure to win this tournament to secure his position following Brazil's indifferent start to their World Cup campaign and his failure will most probably cost him his job.
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