Argentine soccer reeling again with ouster from men’s play

  • AP, Salvador
  • Updated: Aug 11, 2016 02:10 IST
Goalkeeper Geronimo Rulli of Argentina was in tears after Argentina were eliminated from the tournament. (REUTERS)

Argentine soccer took another hit Wednesday when its men’s team was eliminated from Olympics.

The South American power has won two Olympic gold medals in soccer, but it failed to advance from the group stage after a 1-1 draw against Honduras. The result follows the senior team’s loss in the Copa America final in June and added to the crisis enveloping the sport at home.

Playing without any of its stars from the senior team, Argentina needed to win to reach the knockout round. It was unable, however, to defeat Honduras despite creating many scoring opportunities at the Mane Garrincha Stadium in Brasilia.

Honduras advanced along with Portugal, which won Group D with seven points after a 1-1 draw against last-place Algeria in Belo Horizonte. Honduras and Argentina finished with four points each, but Honduras had the edge on goal differential.

Striker Antony Lozano scored for Honduras on a penalty kick in the 75th minute and Mauricio Martinez tied it for Argentina on a free kick during second-half injury time.

Both teams missed penalties when the match was scoreless. A shot by Honduras captain Bryan Acosta was saved by Argentina goalkeeper Geronimo Rulli just before halftime; Argentina playmaker Angel Correa hit the post in the 55th.

The Brazilian crowd at the Mane Garrincha Stadium, disappointed by its country’s two draws at the stadium earlier in the tournament, loudly celebrated the elimination of its South American rival. The hosts have to defeat Denmark later Wednesday in Salvador to reach the quarterfinals and avoid another huge embarrassment at home following the World Cup two years ago.

Argentina won the Olympic gold medal in Athens in 2004 and in Beijing in 2008, the last time with a squad that included Lionel Messi. It did not play in the 2012 London Games and was not considered among the favorites in Rio.

This latest loss underscored the problems of Argentina soccer. The country’s federation is in financial chaos, and the Olympic team was left without a coach when Gerardo Martino resigned a month before the Rio Games. That left successor Julio Olarticoechea with little time to prepare a team led by youngsters Jonathan Calleri and Correa. There was even the possibility the nation would skip the tournament because of the turmoil. The loss in the Copa America final prompted a startling announcement by Messi that he was retiring from the national squad.

Argentina opened the Olympic tournament with a 2-0 loss to Portugal and needed to rally from a goal down to defeat Algeria 2-1 in its second game.

Honduras, which also lost to Portugal and beat Algeria, will be playing among the last eight for the second straight Olympics. It was eliminated by Brazil at the quarterfinals in 2012 in London.

Paciencia put Portugal on the board against Algeria by converting a 25th-minute penalty kick at the Mineirao Stadium, but the Algerians equalized with Mohammed Benkablia in the 30th.

Portugal is trying to improve on its fourth-place finish from two decades ago, when a squad led by Nuno Gomes and Sergio Conceicao missed on the bronze medal. The last time it played in the Olympics was in 2004, when it failed to reach the knockout stage despite a team featuring Cristiano Ronaldo, Bruno Alves and Hugo Almeida.

Portugal’s senior team won the European Championship for the first time last month.

The men’s soccer tournament is played with under-23 squads but nations can add three older players.

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