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African Soccer Shines at Beijing Olympics

All Africa.com, News Report, Staff Posted: Aug 11, 2008

The Ivory Coast, Nigeria and Cameroon all recorded victories at the 2008 Beijing Olympics on Sunday to mark an excellent day for African football.

Ronaldinho was also back to his best as he led Brazil on a 5-0 romp over New Zealand Sunday to confirm their quarterfinal berth in Olympic men's football along with Argentina and Italy.

The tournament's big three cannot be denied winning their groups with one pool match remaining but the Netherlands last gasp draw with the United States left three teams in with a chance to take the two berths from Group B.

Only two points separates the co-leaders United States and Nigeria from the Netherlands and the US and Nigeria are still to play each other.

The Netherlands were staring at defeat and the prospect of having to beat Japan by a wide margin in their final pool game when a Gerald Sibon free kick three minutes into stoppage time reversed their fortunes.

Nigeria, who earlier drew with the Netherlands, posted their first win of the tournament Sunday when they beat Japan 2-1.

Ronaldinho delighted his legion of fans, scoring twice as he led Brazil to an untroubled 5-0 win over minnows New Zealand to remain unbeaten in pool C.

The Brazilian captain, a clear favourite with the large crowd, was at the heart of nearly every decisive move as New Zealand struggled to stay in the match.

Brazil coach Dunga also warned Ronaldinho will only get better as the tournament progresses.

"Finally, we start to see his smile. Not everybody knows that he hadn't played an official game for four months, but a talented player like him will retrieve his form very fast," Dunga said.

In the other pool C match China's underchievers went down in a tame 2-0 defeat to Belgium who must now beat New Zealand to remain in the tournament.

China's wafer-thin hope rests on them beating New Zealand and New Zealand upsetting Belgium which on present form is unlikely.

Masterful Lionel Messi inspired Argentina to a hard-fought 1-0 win over a gutsy Australia Sunday, with Napoli's Ezequiel Lavezzi scoring the decisive goal following waves of pressure.

The Barcelona superstar was the driving force as Argentina look to win back-to-back Olympic gold.

They now have two wins out of two in Group A where the second qualifier is likely to come from the Australia-Ivory Coast match on Wednesday after Ivory Coast beat Serbia 4-2 in Shanghai on Sunday.

Italy took an unbeatable two-from-two stranglehold on Group D when they soundly beat South Korea 3-0, while Cameroon put themselves in the box seat to also qualify when they beat Honduras for their first win.

Cameroon are three points clear of South Korea who will need a substantial win over Honduras in their remaining match to stay in the competition.

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