Nigeria, Argentina play for gold

Mcelwa Nchabeleng

Mcelwa Nchabeleng

BEIJING - Defending champions Argentina and Nigeria pulled off scintillating performances in the semifinals of the Olympics' men's football tournament yesterday and their final at National Stadium on Saturday should be a nail-biting affair.

Nigeria performed like a team destined to scoop gold again, as they did at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics.

Kickoff of this blockbuster is a 12 noon (6am South African time).

Argentina trounced pre-tournament favourites Brazil 3-0 in an all-South American affair at Workers Stadium, while Nigeria secured a majestic 4-1 victory over outsiders Belgium in Shanghai.

Sergio Aguero scored a brace and Juan Riquelme scored the other goal for Argentina, with Ronaldinho's Brazil failing to reply.

Nigeria buried Belgium with goals from Chinedu Ogbuke Obasi (brace), Olubayo Adefemi and Chibuzor Okonkwo.

Substitute Laurent Ciman scored a consolation goal for Belgium late in the  game.

"We are going for gold," said Samson Siasia, the Nigeria coach, in a post-match interview.

Obasi was equally confident.

"I can score a goal and win a gold medal," he said.

"The gold will make up for all the goals we conceded in the tournament.

"Our opponents will be strong but we will not give up.

"I worked hard as a young player to get here. It's incredible for me to stand at the gate of one of the biggest competitions in the world."

The Brazilians should be consoled by the fact that their women's squad have qualified for the final  after  a 4-1 demolition of Germany in Shanghai on Monday.

The United States beat Japan 4-2 at the Workers Stadium to reach the final which will be played at the same venue tomorrow at 9pm.

Japan and Germany meet for bronze at 6pm.

Belgium face Brazil at Shanghai Stadium on Friday at 7pm in the men's bronze medal match.