U23 Football Pre-Olympic: Argentina beats Chile to secure final four spot

The Albiceleste won 5-0 thanks to two goals from Thiago Almada, plus strikes from Santiago Castro, Aaron Quirós and Luciano Gondou

The Argentina U23 men’s national football team stamped out its Chilean counterpart by 5-0 in the Conmebol Pre-Olympic Tournament and secured a place in the Final Four phase. Thiago Almada was the undisputed player of the match, with two goals and an assist, while Santiago Castro, Aaron Quirós, and Luciano Gondou completed the quintet.

The team led by Javier Mascherano had left more questions than answers in its first two fixtures, with a scrappy draw in its debut against Paraguay and a hard-fought win v. Perú. However, the Albiceleste showed their best game against Chile.

Dominant from the get-go, it had many clear chances early in the first half. The biggest worry for Argentina came when winger Claudio Echeverri had to be taken off in a stretcher after feeling chest pain, although he was able to carry on playing after receiving medical attention. 

The opener for Argentina would come in the dying moments of the first half, when Qatar 2022-winner Almada scored off a rebound after a long Santiago Castro effort.

In the second half, it would be Almada again who doubled the score in the 56th minute, taking a penalty after Racing Club’s Juan Ignacio Nardoni was shoved inside the box. Just five minutes later, Almada crowned his best game of the tournament by dribbling past two opponents to set up the third for Castro. 

Argentina kept pushing despite the result and made it 4-0 in the 78th minute as Quirós found some space to finish after a scrappy play from a corner. The fifth and final goal came in the 91st minute, when the Albiceleste’s leading goal scorer Goundou finished from a reflection after a Pablo Solari shot.

Argentina sealed its place in the final four group stage, along with Paraguay. In group B, Brazil is already qualified, while the second spot is still up for grabs. Venezuela will get the honors if they beat the Verdeamarelha in their final pool game, but any other result will send Ecuador to the final stage.

Mascherano’s team will complete its first-round commitments when they go against Uruguay, already eliminated, on Friday at 8 p.m.


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