RIO DE JANEIRO: Neymar led Brazil into the semi-finals of the Olympics with his first goal of the competition to edge the third of a trilogy of grudge matches with Colombia in three years 2-0.
The Barcelona star curled home an inch-perfect free-kick after just 12 minutes of Saturday’s game, but was lucky to escape with a yellow card for chopping down Andres Roa and provoking a brawl between the two teams just before half-time.
The hosts controlled their emotions better after the break and Luan sealed the win with a dipping effort from outside the box seven minutes from time.
“This is what we have dreamed of. It is not an easy road, but we want the medal,” said Luan.
Brazil will face Honduras in Wednesday’s semi-final in Rio after the Central Americans stunned South Korea 1-0 thanks to Alberth Elis’s winner in Belo Horizonte.
Germany, who beat Portugal 4-0, face Nigeria in the other semi-final after the Africans beat Denmark 2-0.
Victory keeps Brazil’s quest for a maiden football gold medal on track and the enticing possibility of a final against world champions Germany at the Maracana next Saturday.
Neymar missed that match having been stretchered off in tears with two broken vertebrae when Brazil dumped a James Rodriguez-inspired Colombia out of a bruising quarter-final two years ago. The match saw 54 fouls.
Colombia got their revenge by ending Neymar’s tournament prematurely once more at last year’s Copa America, this time through suspension. The Brazilian lost his head at the end of a 1-0 defeat and aimed a head-butt at Jeison Murillo that earned a four-game ban.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 15th, 2016.
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