Sunday, Aug 29, 2004
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ATHENS, AUG. 28. Carlos Tevez scored his eighth goal of the tournament as Argentina captured a long-overdue gold medal at the Olympic soccer tournament on Saturday, beating Paraguay 1-0.
The 20-year-old Boca Juniors striker, a likely transfer target for Europe's top clubs, scored the only goal of the final in the 18th minute at the Olympic Stadium as Argentina made up for two runners-up finishes in 1928 and 1996.
The Argentina players held hands and danced in a circle in celebration of their first Olympic triumph before 41,116 fans. Although Paraguay went close to scoring, Marcelo Bielsa's team was an overwhelming favourite to win the title and take the gold medal back to South America for the first time since Uruguay beat Argentina 76 years ago in Amsterdam.
Already an underdog for the final, Paraguay was reduced to nine men after Emilio Martinez was sent off for elbowing Andres D'Alessandro in the face in the 67th minute and Diego Figueredo was shown a second yellow six minutes from the end. But the runner-up medal was still Paraguay's first ever at the Olympics at any sport. Italy won the bronze on Friday night, beating Iraq 1-0.
A huge relief
Argentina's victory was a huge relief for coach Marcelo Bielsa, who had been told to come home with nothing but the gold medal. For Valencia defender Roberto Ayala, it also made up for the disappointment of the silver medal he collected when Argentina lost 3-2 to Nigeria eight years ago.
If Paraguay didn't already have a tough enough job to stop the hot favourite, striker Jose Cardozo who had scored five goals including two in the semifinals was ruled out because of an injury he suffered in the game in Thessaloniki.
The Paraguayan defence relied on a blatant offside trap to try to defend its goal and, although Luis Gonzalez had the ball in the Paraguayan net in the 10th minute it was ruled out. But it didn't take long for Argentina to go ahead and it was no surprise who scored it.
A break from defence by AC Milan's Fabricio Coloccini started the move when he ran 30 meters from his own area and released Mauro Rosales down the right. He crossed to the near post and Tevez ran between defenders Julio Manzur and Carlos Gamarra to prod the ball home from six meters.
The Paraguayan defenders seemed terrified whenever Tevez was running at them and both Gamarra and Manzur were shown yellow cards for hauling him down as if in punishment for his goal.
As Argentina threatened again, D'Alessandro beat two men just outside the Paraguay area but shot wide of the left post. Then goalkeeper Diego Barreto fumbled a leftwing cross from Cesar Delgado straight to Luis Gonzalez whose first time shot was over the bar from the edge of the area.
Just before half time, Tevez nearly struck again when the confident striker cut in from the left and aimed a low shot toward the far corner, but the 'keeper fisted it away at full stretch.
Inter Milan's Kily Gonzalez put Argentina in trouble when he conceded a free kick not far outside its area two minutes into the second half and was shown the yellow for tripping Fredy Bareiro.
Aureliano Torres curled the free kick round the wall but 'keeper German Lux dived full length to his right to clutch the ball by the post.
It was almost 2-0 a minute later, however, when Rosales arrived at the far post to meet a leftwing cross but headed wide of the post. Then a rightwing corner by Rosales was headed on by Delgado at the near post. Luis Gonzalez seemed certain to score as he raced in to connect from five meters out but goalkeeper Barreto managed to deflect the ball over the bar with his body.
Paraguay was reduced to 10 men when Martinez was sent off by Greek referee Kyros Vassaras for felling D'Alessandro with his elbow to halt another promising Argentina move.
But 10-man Paraguay almost levelled in the 72nd minute when Figueredo swapped passes with Pablo Gimenez and got away from the defence only for Argentina 'keeper Lux to stick out his left hand and block the shot.
Tevez raced clear of the Paraguay defence but Barreto raced out of goal to block his first angled shot.
The Boca Juniors striker pulled the ball back to Kily Gonzalez but, with Barreto off his line, Gamarra got back to clear off the line. AP
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