Argentina secures spot at Paris Olympics, eliminates Brazil

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CARACAS, Feb 12, (AP): Brazil will not defend its Olympic men’s soccer title in Paris after losing 1-0 to its regional rival Argentina.
In the decisive South American Olympic qualifier, Luciano Gondou scored the winner for the Argentina under-23 team coached by Javier Mascherano. He headed a cross from Valentin Barco past goalkeeper Mycael in the 78th minute at the Brigido Iriarte Stadium in Caracas.

Brazil won gold at men’s soccer in the Rio de Janeiro and Tokyo Olympics.
South America’s Olympic qualifying for men’s soccer offered two spots in Paris, where the men’s tournament starts July 24. Paraguay ended on the top of the table of the final group stage with seven points in three matches after its 2-0 win on Sunday against host Venezuela.
The Paraguayan team, which didn’t have star players like its two bigger continental rivals, also beat Brazil to secure its spot for France.

Argentina finished the tournament with five points, two more than Brazil, which only managed to beat Venezuela in the final stage.
Argentina had the upper hand in the first half but the defensive stance of Brazil, coached by Ramon Menezes, didn’t help bring much emotion to the match. World Cup winner Thiago Almada hit the post in the 16th minute.

Argentina’s Leandro Brey made the best save of the game in the 61st, when substitute Gabriel Pec struck hard from close range. Brazil did not keep up the pressure, with striker Endrick once more playing below par. And then Gondou’s header made the difference between the two teams.
“We deserved this. We didn’t lose a single match at the qualifying,” said Gondou, who scored four goals in the tournament in Venezuela. “We suffered, we waited for this goal, but at the end we got it.”
Brazil last failed to make the men’s soccer Olympic tournament in 2004.

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