LONDON – Great Britain’s first men’s Olympic football tournament for more than 50 years ended in familiar fashion with an Englishman missing a penalty as they lost a shoot-out against South Korea on Saturday.
After extra-time failed to separate the sides, who’d finished all square at 1-1 at the end of 90 minutes, it was the Koreans who held their nerve to win the shoot-out 5-4 to set up a semi-final with pre-tournament favourites Brazil in Manchester on Tuesday.
Not even the fact this match was being staged at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff, the home of the Welsh national side, could prevent the team going out on penalties — an all-too familiar method of defeat for England football teams in major international competitions.
Great Britain were only competing at this Olympics, their first since the 1960 Games in Rome, because of their status as host nation.
The very presence of this side had aroused huge opposition from Celtic counties fearful it could mark the start of their extinction as independent football nations.
But on a night of unprecedented success for Britain’s athletes at the Olympic Stadium in London, with a trio of gold medallists, the wave of patriotic fervour was not enough to sweep the hosts into the last four.
And even though Manchester United and Wales great Ryan Giggs, playing in his first major international tournament smashed home his penalty to give Britain a 4-3 lead, a hesitant Sturridge, stuttering in his run-up, saw his spot-kick blocked.
Great Britain manager Stuart Pearce knew how Sturridge felt, having himself had a penalty saved during England’s penalty shoot-out loss to West Germany in the semi-finals of the 1990 World Cup in Italy.
Ji Dong-Won gave South Korea a deserved lead when the striker, who plays for English Premier League club, saw his 29th minute swerving shot embarrass Jack Butland, with the goalkeeper left grasping thin air.
Then came two penalties for Britain, with Welshman Aaron Ramsey scoring one and seeing Korean keeper Jung Sung-Ryong, who was injured later, saving the other one.
Brazil stayed on course for a first Olympic football gold medal but only after a nervy 3-2 win over a Honduras side reduced to nine men.
Leandro Damiao equalised for Brazil after Mario Martinez put Honduras ahead. Roger Espinoza then restored the Central Americans’ lead.
However, Neymar brought Brazil level again from the penalty spot before Internacional striker Damiao scored his second at Newcastle’s St James’ Park.
Honduras gave Brazil, five-times world champions but never Olympic gold medallists, a huge scare despite having midfielder Wilmer Cristiano sent off with just 32 minutes gone for a second bookable offence, with Espinoza collecting his second yellow card just before the final whistle.
Japan stayed on course for an Olympic football double as their men’s team joined the women’s side in reaching the semi-finals following a 3-0 win over 10-man Egypt on Saturday.
Goals from Kensuke Nagai, captain Maya Yoshida and Yuki Otsu took Japan through against an Egypt side who played more than half the match a man down after defender Saadeldin Saad was sent off in the 41st minute.
Japan will play Mexico in the semi-finals after the Central Americans survived a dramatic fightback by Senegal to win 4-2 in extra-time.
Senegal came from 2-0 behind at London’s Wembley Stadium, in front of a crowd of more than 81,000.
Mexico went ahead in the 10th minute when Jorge Enriquez headed in a free-kick and made it 2-0 just after the hour through Javier Aquino.
Moussa Konate, the tournament’s top scorer, pulled a goal back in the 69th minute, for his fifth goal this Olympics.
And seven minutes later it substitute Ibrahima Balde’s header made it 2-2.
In extra-time Giovani dos Santos restored Mexico’s lead before Hector Herrera, who will miss the semi-final through suspension, headed into an empty net. “I’m so happy,” said dos Santos. “It’s an unbelievable experience for me and the team.”