Rio De Janeiro: Maybe Neymar and his teammates can make the Olympics a success for Brazil after all.
Brazil’s celebrated men’s football team rolled to a 6-0 win over Honduras in the semifinals Wednesday to earn a spot in the gold medal match.
Rio’s Day 12 of competition also has action in men’s basketball and medals up for grabs in track and field, beach volleyball and wrestling.
Brazil started the day 16th in the medal standings, with only three golds in the first 11 days. Two of the country’s best chances remaining to reach the top of the podium were competing Wednesday, with the men’s soccer team in the afternoon and Agatha and Barbara scheduled to go for gold in beach volleyball just before midnight.
Empty seats have been prevalent across Rio, but not at the Maracana Stadium, where they packed in to watch Neymar and Co. They didn’t have to wait long, with Neymar scoring 15 seconds into the game. It was the fastest goal in men’s Olympic history, and Brazil led 3-0 going into halftime to cruise into the final.
“We don’t want to disappoint the fans,” Brazil midfielder Renato Augusto said. “They want us to play well and they want us to win the gold.”
Neymar added a goal on a penalty kick in stoppage time, and Gabriel Jesus also scored twice for Brazil, which got off to a slow start in the tournament. But the team picked up the pace and will face Germany, which beat Nigeria 2-0 in the other semifinal match. Germany’s senior team trounced Brazil 7-1 in the semifinals of the World Cup in Rio two years ago.
“Hey Germany, just wait, your turn is coming up!” a fired-up fan base chanted.
In other competition across Rio, the United States beat Argentina 105-78; Spain beat France 92-67 to bring to an end Tony Parker’s Olympic career; and Australia beat Lithuania 90-64 in the quarterfinals of the men’s basketball tournament. Kenyan steeplechase great Ezekiel Kemboi, who announced his retirement after finishing third in the 3,000-meter event, was disqualified after a jury ruled that he stepped off the track after clearing a water jump.
And Thailand’s Ariya Jutanugarn became the first 18-hole leader in the history of women’s golf in the Olympics. Jutanugarn shot 6-under 65 for a one-shot lead over seven-time major champion Inbee Park and Seiyoung Kim, both of South Korea. This is the first time for women’s golf to be in the Olympics since the Paris Games in 1900, and back then it was only a nine-hole competition.
Agatha and Barbara, the defending world champions, beat Americans Kerri Walsh Jennings and April Ross in the semifinals on Tuesday night to reach the finals. They will play Germany’s Laura Ludwig and Kira Walkenhorst on Wednesday night.
The improved play of the soccer team and the beach volleyball tandem’s run come as welcome respites for the beleaguered Brazilians, who have seen the Rio Games deal with distraction, disorganization and tragedy for the last two weeks. The problems continued Wednesday when a Brazilian judge ordered that the passports of Ryan Lochte and Jimmy Feigen be seized and that the American swimmers stay in Brazil as authorities investigate Lochte’s claims that he was robbed at gunpoint. Lochte’s father told The Associated Press that his son had returned to the US before the order was issued.
IOC member Patrick Hickey of Ireland stepped aside from his Olympic positions after being arrested in a ticket scalping investigation. Ireland’s national Olympic committee said Hickey is stepping down “until the matter is fully resolved.” He is accused of plotting with at least nine others to sell Olympic tickets illegally.
Other highlights from Day 12:
Track showdown: Dafne Schippers of the Netherlands and American Tori Bowie are two of the favourites in the women’s 200 meters. Bowie is coming off a silver in the 100.
Bolt’s back: Usain Bolt takes another step toward another sweep in the sprints. The Jamaican was 3 for 3 in Beijing and again in London. And so far he’s 1 for 1 in Rio. The 200-meter semifinals start at 10pm
USA hoops: The Americans squeaked by in their three previous games, but looked more like their dominant selves in downing proud Argentina. Kevin Durant scored 27 points and Manu Ginobili received an emotional farewell from the passionate Argentine fans in his final Olympic game.
Beach bronze: Few bronze medal games will feature a more intriguing matchup than the one on Copacabana Beach, where Walsh Jennings, who has won three gold medals, and Ross will face Brazil’s top-seeded team of Talita and Larissa.
Wrestling history: Japan’s Kaori Icho has become the first wrestler in Olympic history to win four gold medals, beating Russia’s Valeriia Koblova Zholobova 3-2 in 58-kilogram women’s freestyle. Icho also is the first woman to win an individual gold medal in four straight Olympics, having started her historic run at the inaugural women’s tournament in Athens in 2004.