NEWCASTLE, England – Given a second chance after squandering a two-goal lead late in the game, Mexico scored twice in extra time to record a 4-2 quarterfinal victory over Senegal in the Olympic men's soccer tournament at Wembely Stadium in London on Saturday.
Giovani dos Santos and Hector Herrera broke a 2-2 deadlock in the extra time period to propel El Tri to only its second semifinal appearance in 44 years, when Japan defeated them for the bronze medal at the 1968 Summer Games.
Saturday's results left four teams alive in the men's competition -- favorite Brazil, Japan, South Korea, and of course, Mexico.
The Mexicans will meet Japan at Wembley on Tuesday, while gold-medal favorites Brazil will face Korea in Manchester the same day.
It appeared Mexico would cruise into the medal round as it took a 2-0 advantage into the final 21 minutes before Senegal staged a rally to force extratime.
"Wow, that was a difficult game," Mexico coach Luis Fernando Tena said. "What I am most happy about is that after Senegal fought back to 2-2, we were able to pull away and play a high-spirited game. But it was hard."
The Mexicans grabbed a 1-0 lead in the 10th minute as Jorge Enriquez headed in a dos Santos free kick home. They doubled it in the 62nd minute when Javier Aquino scored from a tough angle off a good build-up by dos Santos and Marco Fabian.
But Senegal, making its Olympic soccer debut this year, would not give up. First, Moussa Konate ran his goal total to a tournament-best five when he headed in Pape Souare's cross in the 69th minute, the first goal the Mexicans allowed this tournament.
Eight minutes into the extra session, El Tri took advantage of the first of two Senegal mistakes as Papa Gueye lost the ball and dos Santos lifted the ball over goalkeeper Ousmane Mane for his third goal of the competition.
In the 109th minute, Abdoulaye Ba's sent a weak header back to Mane. Raul Jimenez picked it up and fed Herrera, who headed it into the net for a vital insurance goal.
"I'm so happy," dos Santos said. "It's an unbelievable experience for me and the team. Today was a great day."
South Korea 1, Great Britain 1
(South Korea advances on penalties, 5-4)
In a stunner, Korea overcame the hosts on penalty kicks, 5-4, in Cardiff, Wales.
Ki Sung-yueng converted the winning penalty after Daniel Sturridge missed the fifth attempt for Britain. Korean substitute goalkeeper Lee Bum-young dived to his right to punch Sturridge's try away.
"The only thing that I told them was to keep calm and kick the ball with confidence,'' Korean coach Hong Myung-bo said. "I asked the players to make it very difficult for [Britain] to play its own game."
Ji Dong-won scored on a shot from distance to give the Koreans the lead in the 29th minute, but Aaron Ramsey countered with a penalty kick six minutes later. Ramsey could have given Britain a 2-1 advantage several minutes later, but he missed a second penalty due to a Korean handball.
"I think that's our sixth game maybe," said Manchester United standout midfielder Ryan Giggs. "The Korean lads had, I think, played 18 games unbeaten, so that's the sort of preparation they've had compared to our preparation. We've got better each game, but it was a bit difficult for us today."
Japan 3, Egypt 0
The Japanese qualified for the semifinals for the first time since 1968 in Manchester.
"It was very satisfying," Japan coach Takashi Sekizuka said. "Leading up to the Olympics my aim was to beat the world. With the given time we have prepared mentally and game-by-game we have been working very well together."
Japan took the lead in the 14th minute when Egyptian defender Ahmed Elshenawi collided with a defender vying for the ball and the onrushing Kensuke Nagai had an easy score.
The score remained that way until in the 78th minute, when Maya Yoshida headed home Hiroshi Kiyotake's free kick. A minute later, Yuki Otsu headed in Takahiro Ohgihara's feed.
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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