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Portugal’s fine summer continues with Olympic-opening win vs. Argentina


Gonçalo Paciência’s second-half goal lead the way for Portugal, which continued its fine summer with a 2-0 win over Argentina in both sides’ Olympic opener at the Estádio Olímpico João Havelange in Rio de Janeiro on Thursday.

Pite’s late knuckling shot helped Argentina keeper Geronimo Rulli into a howler to give the game its final scoreline. The win lifts Portugal into second place via goals scored in Group D, while Argentina is third.

Next up for Portugal is also-victorious Honduras on Sunday, while Argentina faces winless Algeria.

MORE: Highlights/match replay here

This one took a while to get going, with the first true danger blocked just over the bar by Portugal’s Edgar Ie before it could get to Angel Correa. That was nearly a half-hour into the match.

Jose Luis Gomez darted into the heart of the 18 to redirect a ball that bounded just wide of keeper Bruno Varela and the far post, keeping it scoreless in the 37th.

Argentina saw an unbridled 50-plus yard run from Jonathan Calleri end with the Sao Paolo man chipping Varela but kissing the crossbar.

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - AUGUST 04: Angel Correa of Argentina reacts during the Men's Group D first round match between Portugal and Argentina during the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at the Olympic Stadium on August 4, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Photo by Quinn Rooney/Getty Images)Portugal earned a free kick from 20 yards after Lisandro Magallán took down Bruno Fernandes outside the box. Sergio Oliviera’s offering deflected off the wall and out for a corner, which Argentina handled well.

Paciencia put Portugal ahead when a partially blocked shot landed at his feet in the 66th minute. He reset his feet outside the 18 to lash a low left-footer across goal and home for a 1-0 lead.

The insurance goal came late in the goings, as Pite’s shot from distance curled through Rulli’s hands, off his planted right foot, and into the goal.

Cristiano Ronaldo ‘a possibility’ for Rio 2016 Olympics

Cristiano Ronaldo
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Cristiano Ronaldo could make his Olympic return in Rio de Janeiro next year, 12 years after his Olympic debut at Athens 2004.

Portugal has qualified for the Olympic men’s soccer tournament for the first time since 2004. Olympic soccer teams can include a maximum of three players born before Jan. 1, 1993, so the two-time reigning FIFA Ballon d’Or winner Ronaldo could be called on.

“It is a possibility,” Portuguese soccer federation president Fernando Gomes told Brazil’s O Globo, according to an ESPN.com translation. “We can bring three players aged over 23. Cristiano is one of those being considered, but we have not yet sat down to discuss it.”

Ronaldo’s availability is complicated by Euro 2016, which will be June 10-July 10, and the start of the La Liga season, usually in mid-August. The 2016 Olympic soccer tournament runs from Aug. 3-20.

Ronaldo played for Portugal in Euro 2004 and in the Athens 2004 Olympics, when he was 19 and Euro ended July 4 and the Olympic soccer tournament began Aug. 11.

Ronaldo scored one goal for Portugal at the 2004 Olympics, two years before his World Cup debut. Portugal is best known at those Athens Games for being upset by Iraq in their opener and being eliminated in the group stage.

Argentina, Germany and Sweden have also qualified for the Rio Olympic men’s soccer tournament, opening up more possibilites for world stars to play in the Games next year. Brazil gets an automatic spot as host.

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Four European nations qualify for 2016 Olympic men’s soccer tournament

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The 2016 Olympic men’s soccer tournament, already with Brazil and Argentina, will also include Germany, Portugal, Sweden and Denmark.

The four nations reached the European Under-21 Championship semifinals this week, clinching their Olympic berths.

There are no more chances for European nations to qualify for the 2016 Olympic men’s soccer tournament, meaning soccer powers like 2006 World Cup winner Italy and 1998 World Cup winner France aren’t going to Rio.

It’s Germany’s first Olympic men’s soccer appearance since East Germany and West Germany reunited in 1990. West Germany won Olympic bronze in 1988, a team that included current U.S. men’s national team coach Jurgen Klinsmann.

German veteran defenders Philipp Lahm and Per Mertesacker, who both retired from international duty after winning the 2014 World Cup, would consider coming back to play in the Olympics, according to German media.

Olympic men’s soccer rosters can include no more than three players over the age of 23.

Portugal could call on Cristiano Ronaldo, the two-time reigning FIFA Ballon d’Or winner and a 2004 Olympian (the last time Portugal qualified for the Olympic men’s soccer tournament). Sweden may bring Paris Saint-Germain striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who has never played in an Olympics.

“It’s all about how the situation looks at that point, but if I have the chance to represent my Sweden at an Olympics, why not?” Ibrahimovic said earlier this month, according to a Reuters translation of a Sportsbladet report, echoing comments he made in November. “We’ll have to see how the situation is… but if I’m available, absolutely.”

Further 2016 Olympic men’s soccer berths will be decided at continental qualifying tournaments, including the U.S.-hosted CONCACAF tournament in October. The U.S. failed to qualify for the London 2012 Games.

Mexico is the reigning Olympic men’s soccer champion. Brazil, the reigning silver medalist, has never won an Olympic soccer title.

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