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OLYMPICS / ATHENS 2004

Greece Fades in Soccer

August 15, 2004|Grahame L. Jones | Times Staff Writer

THESSALONIKI, Greece — The Greek players were applauded off the field here Saturday night, but it was simply a way of saying thank you from the Kaftanzoglio Stadium crowd of 17,123 for their spirited performance in a 2-0 loss to upstart Mali that all but ended their dreams of an Olympic medal in men's soccer.

Greece fell behind on goals by Mali's Mamadi Berthe and Tenema Ndiaye and did not help its cause by missing a penalty kick in the closing seconds.

The Greeks now must defeat Mexico in their final first-round game or be eliminated.

Elsewhere, the Olympic dream continued for Argentina, which got goals from Carlos Tevez and Javier Saviola as the South Americans, very much gold-medal favorites, scored their second consecutive shutout, this time a 2-0 victory over Tunisia in Patras.

Coach Marcelo Bielsa's squad had beaten Serbia and Montenegro, 6-0, in its first game. Saturday's performance was equally impressive.

Tevez, who wears the No. 10 shirt of Diego Maradona and plays for Maradona's old club, Boca Juniors, is likely to make a multimillion-dollar move to Europe after the Olympics, and his goal Saturday night -- his third of the tournament -- showed why.

Kily Gonzalez sent a cross in to the center six minutes before halftime and Tevez launched himself at the ball, redirecting it into the net. Seconds later, he hammered a shot against the crossbar.

Barcelona striker Saviola assured Argentina of the victory when he scored off a pass from Mariano Gonzalez in the 72nd minute.

Mexico went into the Games expecting to do well but suffered a setback Saturday night when it was beaten, 1-0, by South Korea in Athens. In Heraklion, Australia routed Serbia and Montenegro, 5-1.

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