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Belgium oust Italy from Olympic football tournament

Latest update : 2008-08-17

Despite playing with ten men for most of the match, an inspired Belgium secured a surprising 3-2 win over Italy, considered one of the tournament's top bets, in the quarter-finals of the Olympic football tournament.

European giants Italy crashed out of the Olympic men's football tournament 3-2 against 10-man Belgium in a bad-tempered quarter-final upset Saturday.

Italian assistant coach Gianfranco Zola could not inspire his charges to overcome a dogged Belgian outfit who will play either Nigeria or Ivory Coast in the semi-final on Tuesday.

Belgium played most of the match with 10 men but both Italy's goals came from penalties as their opponents scrapped their way through a match that featured two red cards and three yellow.

As the Belgians harried a flat-footed Italian defence, Lille striker Kevin Mirallas had a chance in the 16th minute but shot wide when he cleared his marker in front of the Italian goal.

The good work almost came undone two minutes later when Belgian defender Thomas Vermaelen was red-carded for dragging Napoli striker Andrea Russotto down in the box as he was shaping to shoot.

Villareal forward Guiseppe Rossi converted the penalty to put the Italians up 1-0 but they failed to take advantage of their numerical superiority and Belgium continued to attack.

Their enterprise paid off when they were awarded a controversial goal in the 24th minute when striker Moussa Dembele's header from a Belgian corner appeared to have been cleared off the line by Atalanta midfielder Luca Cigarini.

Argentinian referee Hector Baldassi consulted the video referee and gave the equaliser when replays showed Cigarini was standing about 10 centimetres (four inches) behind the line when he cleared.

Mirallas then gave the Belgians an unlikely lead seconds before half-time when he latched onto Sevilla forward Tom De Mul's pass and turned to blast the ball past goalkeeper Emiliano Viviano.

Zola looked furious as the Italians trudged off the pitch and the players looked fired up in the second half.

Rossi thought he had Italy back on level terms seven minutes after the break but was ruled offside.

He then appeared to have a legitimate penalty appeal turned down and was booked for diving when Belgian goalkeeper Logal Bailly's hand tapped his ankle as the Italian tried to squeeze past and shoot from a tight angle.

The Italians resorted to shooting from the half way line and became increasingly frustrated as the hard-tackling Belgians defended their lead.

Referee Baldassi awarded another penalty on 74 minutes for a foul on Juventus defender Paulo de Ceglie and Rossi slotted home his second spot kick.

Dembele scored the winner in the 79th minute, threading the ball through Genoa defender Salvatore Boncchetti's legs for his second goal.

Italian keeper Viviano was shown a red card on 80 minutes and Italy laid seige to the Belgian goal for five minutes of injury time but could not make the breakthrough.

Date created : 2008-08-16