For the second time in four days, Spain lost by a 1-0 decision, this time to Honduras, as the gold medal favorites crashed out of the Olympic men's soccer tournament in Newcastle on Sunday night.
Highly touted because of the country's recent success, Spain was expected to go far in this competition. Now the Spaniards are going home failing to win their first two Group C matches.
Honduran Jerry Bengtson, a recent acquisition of the New England Revolution, scored the lone goal of the match in the seventh minute at St. James' Park. His Central American teammates made sure that stood up to make some history.
The win boosted Honduras' record to 1-0-1 and four points, with an opportunity to clinch a quarterfinal spot against Spain in Coventry on Wednesday night. Spain will finish up against Morocco.
“We need more points,” Bengston said. “It will be a difficult game again.”
Three members of this team were members of Spain's Euro 2012 championship side, but that could not help the team avert this humiliating elimination and defeat.
"Yes, it is possible that the pressure did impact, but this is a team full of players that play at the highest level," Spain coach Luis Milla said. "As coaches we have to analyze why we have been knocked out. We are out of the Olympic Games which we prepared very well for.
"As you can imagine everyone is sad, everyone is disappointed. But we worked well, played well and we put on a good show. We keep believing in the way we play and our ideology."
Spain, the reigning World Cup champions that captured the Euro 2012 crown only last month, fell to 0-2-0. Spain had lost by the same score for the second time in four days, falling to Japan in Glasgow, Scotland on Thursday.
Jerry Bengtson was set up by Roger Espinoza and Andy Najar (D.C. United). Najar played the ball to the left of the Spanish penalty area. Espinoza swung a cross into the Bengtson, who outjumped Jordi Alba, beating goalkeeper David de Gea on a header.
“It was a tense second half,” Bengston said. “They had lots of chances and we did well to keep calm when they were threatening. It was very hard work. We played so well to beat Spain.”
Espinoza, a member of Sporting Kansas City, received a yellow card, his second in as many games and he will be forced to miss Wednesday's game against Japan.
It was an ill-tempered and physical match, as 13 yellow cards were awarded, including seven on the Spaniards.
“It’s very nice that we heard the crowd supporting us and shouting ‘Honduras, Honduras’.” Bengston said. “We want to thank them and dedicate this win to them.”
Mexico 2, Gabon 0
Halftime substitute Giovani dos Santos scored twice in the second half to lift Mexico to a Group B win in Coventry on Sunday.
The Mexicans, the top seeded country in the group, will play Switzerland in Cardiff, Wales for a chance to reach the quarterfinals on Wednesday.
Dos Santos replaced Miguel Ponce at the start of the second half. It was the second consecutive game that dos Santos came off the bench.
"I want to play but we are a team," he said. "Every player just wants to play well."
He scored in the 63rd minute and added a penalty kick two minutes into injury time past goalkeeper Didier Ovono to ice the game. Oribe Peralta, who was denied on Ovono's finger tip save in the 51st minute, set up dos Santos' first goal 12 minutes later. He created space for dos Santos, who curled a shot past Ovono.
Peralta had a role in dos Santos' second goal as Gabon's Henry Ndong received a second yellow card for fouling the Mexican in the penalty area before dos Santos converted.
"Dos Santos is a luxury to have on the bench," Mexico coach Luis Fernando Tena said. "He has proven he's getting better [football-wise]. He's done well coming from the bench. He's integrated well. He's working morning and afternoon with the physician and the physical coaches.
Senegal 2, Uruguay 0
Despite playing an hour with 10 men, surprise-side Senegal stunned the South Americans at Wembley Stadium in London.
Moussa Konate secured a first-half brace and that's all the first-time Olympic soccer participants needed, although the road to victory was made much more difficult when Abdoulaye Ba was red carded in the 30th minute.
The win boost Senegal (four points) to a 1-0-1 mark while Uruguayans (three) fell to 1-1-0.
"We are just trying to give our best on the pitch and see what happens," Senegal captain Mohamed Diame said. "We know we are not one of the favorites, but we will see how far we can go."
Konate gave his team all the scoring it needed in the 10th minute when he slotted home a rebound of a Cheikhou Kouyate's shot that was saved by goalkeeper Martin Campana.
Uruguay came close to scoring as Gaston Ramírez fired a free kick off one of the posts.
Ba was given his marching orders, a straight red card, for a hard tackle on Luis Suarez in the 30th minute.
"The red card left us wondering how we could win the game," Senegal coach Aliou Cisse said. "We knew how difficult it would be for us as a consequence and we had to reform ourselves to be more compact."
Instead of folding, the Africans doubled their advantage in the 37th minute as Konate headed in another corner kick for his third goal of the tournament.
"There are no excuses," Suárez said. "We made two mistakes for the goals we conceded and we had opportunities to score - but we didn't take them."
Brazil 3, Belarus 1
Neymar continued to put his stamp on the tournament, scoring off a brilliant free kick and creating two goals, to boost Brazil (2-0-0, six points) into the quarterfinals at Old Trafford.
Belarus (three) fell to 1-1-0.
Coach Mano Menezes, who is under pressure to bring home the first soccer gold medal to Brazil, received congratulatory phone calls from some high-profile people for the win -- Brazilian Football Confederation president José Maria Marin and ex-President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva.
"This message has been passed to the players," Menezes said. "Brazil has made an important step at these Olympics.
"We are very pleased to have already qualified before the end of the group stages," he said. "This will make all Brazilian supporters happy."
It took a Brazilian-born member of Belarus to put the Eastern European team into the lead in the eighth minute as Renan Bardini Bressan headed in a goal in the Group C encounter.
But Brazil, in general, and Neymar, in particular, took over. First, he set up Alexandre Pato, who fired a drive into the net for a 1-1 tie in the 14th minute.
Neymar then took matters into his own, curling a fabulous 30-yard free kick over the defensive wall and into the top left-hand corner of the net.
He then set up Oscar in the final minutes of stoppage time.
Nor was that the end of his contribution, with the Santos star showing superb skill – not to mention admirable unselfishness – to tee up Oscar for an equally impressive third, side-footed high into the net, as the final seconds of injury time ticked down.
"I think it is already known that Neymar will be the next star," Belarus' Sergei Politevich said. "Maybe he is already a star and today was confirmation of that."
Japan 1, Morocco 0
The Japanese booked a spot in the quarterfinals with their second consecutive 1-0 result as Kensuke Nagai found the back of the net in the 84th minute in the Group D match at St. James' Park in Newcastle.
Japan (six points), which had stunned gold-medal favorites Spain in its opener on Thursday, broke the deadlock with only minutes to spare as Nagai chipped the ball, one bounce, over onrushing keeper Mohamed Amsif.
"I started the game in central attack, but I was not finding much space," Nagai said. "So I went out to the wing to find space and my teammates knew where I was and how I was able to score the goal."
Japan did not get off to the start it was hoping for.
"In the first half, we were not able to start as well as we did in the first game against Spain," Japan coach Takashi Sekizuka said. "Morocco have strong individual skills and play strongly as a team, so it took us time to get used to the game. But defensively we held on well for 90 minutes."
Japanese goalkeeper Shuichi Gonda was credited with three superb saves on Morocco (0-1-1, one).
"The Japanese media are very critical of the men's team, so to win this game was great to show it is not just the women's team who succeed," Gonda said. "There is a little bit of pressure on us, but I believe the women's team have a lot more as they have to retain their title and improve themselves. Whereas in comparison there is very little expectations on the men's team."
South Korea 2, Switzerland 1
Kim Bokyung, who will played for Cardiff City in England's second tier, broke a 1-1 tie for the Korean in the Group B match in Coventry.
Park Chuyoung lifted the Koreans, scoring on a header in the 57th minute off a cross, but the Swiss equalized only three minutes later on Innoncent Emeghara's goal, which was set up by Ricardo Rodríguez.
Great Britain 3, United Arab Emirates 1
A pair of Great Britain substitutes broke a 1-1 deadlock by scoring twice within a three-minute span to eliminate the UAE from the tournament at Wembley Stadium.
The hosts need only a tie in their final Group A match with Uruguay on Wednesday to reach the knockout round.
Ryan Giggs lifted the British into the lead in the 16th minute, becoming the oldest player -- he's 37 -- to score in the Olympic soccer tournament, breaking Egyptian Hussein Hegazi's 88-year-old record. Hegazi reportedly was 33 at the time he scored at the 1924 Summer Games.
UAE equalized in the 60th minute on Rashed Eisa's goal. But the British took over on goals by Scott Sinclair in the 73rd minute and Daniel Sturridge in the 76th minute.
Egypt 1, New Zealand 1
Neither team helped its chances of reaching the quarterfinals at Old Trafford as both needed a win in Group C to keep their flagging hopes alive.
Chris Wood gave New Zealand (0-1-1, one) the lead in the 17th minute, heading home a Tommy Smith corner kick at the far post.
The African side, however, equalized in the 40th minute. Mohamed Aboutrika sent in a cross that found Mohamed Salah at the far post and Salah knocked the ball home for a 1-1 tie.
Michael Lewis, who is covering his seventh Olympic soccer tournament, can be reached at SoccerWriter516@aol.com.
Michael Lewis, who has written about soccer for four decades, is the only journalist who has covered every MLS Cup. He can be reached at SoccerWriter516@aol.com or via Twitter at @soccerwriter.
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