Neymar, Brazil come out blazing in Olympic soccer semifinals
RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — Maybe Neymar and his teammates can make the Olympics a success for Brazil after all.
Brazil’s celebrated men’s soccer team rolled to a 6-0 win over Honduras in the semifinals Wednesday to earn a spot in the gold medal match.
In other action across the Rio Games, the United States men’s basketball team beat Argentina 105-78, Americans Kerri Walsh Jennings and April Ross won bronze in beach volleyball and the Jamaicans had a big night at the track with Elaine Thompson winning the women’s 200 meters and Usain Bolt cruising to a win in the semifinals of the men’s 200.
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 competed on Wednesday. The men’s soccer team survived, but Agatha and Barbara lost in the beach volleyball gold medal match to Germany.
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.
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 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. But Laura Ludwig and Kira Walkenhorst dispatched them 21-18, 21-14, leaving Neymar as Brazil’s only hope.
The improved play of the soccer team comes 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 U.S. before the order was issued, but teammates Jack Conger and Gunnar Bentz were pulled off of their plane as they were getting set to leave.
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:
AMERICAN SWEEP: Brianna Rollins, Nia Ali and Kristi Castlin finished 1-2-3 in the 100-meter hurdles to give the United States its first sweep in the event, its seventh in the history of Olympic track and the 23rd for U.S. women, regardless of sport, over the history of the Summer Games.
THOMPSON’S TRIUMPH: After winning the 100 on Saturday, Thompson never gave Dutch sprinter Dafne Schippers a chance to catch her on the straightaway of the 200 meters. Thompson ended in a season’s best 21.78 seconds. Tori Bowie of the United States took bronze in 22.15.
BOLT’S BACK: Bolt got out quickly in his 200 semifinal heat and started to coast down the final 40 meters. Canadian Andre de Grasse nipped at his heels, and the two laughed as Bolt crossed the finish line just ahead of him. Bolt finished in 19.78 seconds and de Grasse in 19.80 to advance to the final.
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 featured a more intriguing matchup than the one on Copacabana Beach, where Walsh Jennings, who has won three gold medals, and Ross beat Brazil’s top-seeded team of Talita and Larissa, 17-21, 21-17, 15-9.
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.