Luis Suarez of Uruguay looks dejected during the Men's Football first round Group A match between Great Britain and Uruguay on Day 5 of the London 2012 Olympic Games at Millennium Stadium on August 1, 2012 in Cardiff, Wales.Getty
Craig Bellamy of Great Britain meets Luis Suarez of Uruguay at the start of the Men's Football first round Group A match between Great Britain and Uruguay on Day 5 of the London 2012 Olympic Games at Millennium Stadium on August 1, 2012 in Cardiff, Wales.Getty
MANCHESTER – One Luis Suarez was smiling, the other obviously wasn't after Wednesday's results of the Olympic men's soccer tournament.
The happier Suarez, a coach, was quite proud of his Honduras side after it made history by reaching the semifinals of the tournament for the first time. The Central Americans played Japan to a scoreless draw.
“I’m very, very, very proud of the players,” he said. “For the last seven months, they’ve worked very hard every day, every week, every month. Most important is aptitude, desire, union, friendship. I’m deeply proud of the result.”
The sadder Suarez, a striker, had his Uruguayan team eliminated from the competition by host Great Britain, dropping a 1-0 decision in Cardiff, Wales.
“I’m hurt because we lost and we are going home,” he said. “We all had a dream and that was to win the gold medal here,"
Besides the Hondurans, Mexico also reached the knockout stage.
This is what Saturday's quarterfinal matches look like:
- Great Britain vs. South Korea in Cardiff, Wales
- Japan vs. Egypt in Manchester
- Brazil vs. Honduras in Newcastle
- Mexico vs. Senegal in London
Here's how the quarterfinals got there:
Honduras 0, Japan 0
Goalkeeper Jose Mendoza made several superb saves to keep his team and help the Central Americans to second place in Group D. The Japanese (2-0-1, seven points) did not allow a goal in the group phase.
Defender Maynor Figueroa felt Honduras (1-0-2, five) could even go further in the competition.
“Nobody thought we would get to the final, but I honestly think we can even if nobody else did at the start,” he said. “Nobody believed us but we’ve got just as much chance as anybody else.”
Teammate Jerry Bengtson, who plays for the New England Revolution, almost scored in the 38th minute when he found space in the penalty area, but goalkeeper Shuichi Gonda denied him a goal.
Great Britain 1, Uruguay 0
Daniel Sturridge scored in first-half stoppage time lifted the hosts (2-0-1, seven) to the Group A title at Millennium Stadium in Cardiff.
The South Americans (1-2-0, three) tried a late push from Suarez, who twice was denied, and substitute Nicolas Lodeiro.
"It's great. It's just amazing to be part of something so special," Sturridge said. "The Olympics is bigger than football, it's a worldwide occasion. And I'm happy to be part of it, I'm happy to help the team."
Despite not having much time together, Great Britain has managed to gel together.
"It's difficult for teams that have been put together to all of a sudden play together and try to have some form of connection on the field," Sturridge said. "But we're all good players and as the days and weeks have gone by we have made a connection and made partnerships with each other."
During the game, Suarez was booed by the crowd. The verbal abuse comes from Suarez’s altercation with Patrice Evra in an English Premier League match between his Liverpool club and Manchester United in which he was suspended for eight games and fined.
"I can take the abuse. I don't mind,” Suarez said. “But I think it was a total lack of respect from the crowd to boo when we were trying to sing our national anthem. I think those things should not happen.”
Mexico 1, Switzerland 0
Forward Oribe Peralta scored from 14 yards off a Giovani dos Santos feed in the 69th minute for El Tri (2-0-1, seven) to win the Group B title with a win over the Swiss (0-2-1, one) at Millennium Stadium in Cardiff.
The Mexicans haven't given up a goal in three games.
“It was a difficult game and we have to continue working,” Mexico coach Luis Fernando Tena said. “Switzerland was a difficult team and they didn’t allow us to get possession of the ball, but it was a justified victory for us. The team is growing game by game and getting better in physical areas. It is great to finish first [in the group] and to have kept three clean sheets.”
Senegal 1, United Arab Emirates 1
In their Olympic debut, the Senegalese (1-0-2, five) accomplished what many debutantes have failed to do -- reach the quarterfinals. They did that behind Moussa Konate, who struck for his fourth goal in three games in the Group A encounter at the City of Coventry Stadium in Coventry.
Team captain Ismaeil Matar lifted the UAE (0-2-1, one) into the lead in the 21st minute before Konate equalized in the 49th minute.
The stadium obviously was good luck to the Africans because they defeated Oman in a playoff there on April 23 to become the final and 16th team to qualify.
"I am incredibly happy and very proud," Senegal coach Aliou Cisse said. "No one had really expected us to come this far and it is a first for Senegal.
"To qualify was great, but to get out of such a hard group, where we have teams like Great Britain and Uruguay, and to reach this far without losing is fantastic."
South Korea 0, Gabon 0
The Koreans (1-0-2, five) clinched second place in Group B at Wembley Stadium in London. Gabon (0-1-2, two), which made its first Olympic appearance, took third in the group.
Korea spent most of the match on attack, but could not convert.
"We expected it to be tough, especially with the fatigue of the players, but I am just happy we are through to the quarterfinals," Korea coach Hong Myung Bo said. "It would have been much better to finish top but we would have had to score two goals to do this, and with the players' physical condition, this was very difficult . . . If you compare our performance today with our previous matches, it was a little lower."
Brazil 3, New Zealand 0
Despite resting five players, the Brazilians completed the opening round at a perfect 3-0-0 to capture the Group C crown at St. James' Park in Newcastle. They rode goals by Danili (23rd minute), Leandro Damio (29th minute) and Sandro (52nd minute). New Zealand (0-2-1, one) needed to win to have any hope of reaching the knockout stage.
"We were very lucid, very fluent and had good control of the ball," Brazil coach Mano Menezes said. "Since the first game, the whole team has improved in terms of possession on the field."
Brazil will be without Alex Sandro, who incurred two yellow cards in the match and will face a one-match ban.
"Losing Alex Sandro is a great worry," Menezes said. "The first yellow card was undeserved. The referee could have warned him about the challenge, like he warned the New Zealand No. 9 about five times, but that's football."
Egypt 3, Belarus 1
After accruing but one point in two matches, Egypt (1-1-1, four) did all of its scoring in the second half against Belarus (1-2-0, three) to win the Group C match at Hampden Park in Glasgow, Scotland.
Mohamed Salah tallied his third goal of the competition in the 56th minute and Marwan Mohsen followed 17 minutes later before Marwan Mohsen closed out the Egyptian’s scoring.
Sub Andrei Voronkov pulled a goal back, converting Dmitry Baga's corner kick in the 87th minute .
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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