Mexico goes on scoring spree vs. South Korea to reach Olympic semifinals
TOKYO — It took Mexico six tries to reach the semifinals of an Olympic soccer tournament. Now it can’t seem to stay away.
With Saturday’s 6-3 rout of South Korea in Yokohama, El Tri is back in the final four for the second time in nine years, riding two goals from Henry Martin and two from Sebastián Córdova to a date with Brazil on Tuesday in Kashima, about 70 miles east of Tokyo, where an Olympic medal will be on the line.
Brazil beat Egypt 1-0 in its quarterfinal.
Mexico’s only other trip to the Olympic semifinals, in 2012, ended on the top step of the medal stand. But the team has been far more dominant in this tournament, scoring three or more goals in three of its five games. And each game has produced a different star.
Saturday it was Martín and Córdova sharing the spotlight.
Martín got Mexico started in the 12th minute after Alexis Vega sent a pass from the left wing across the goal to Luis Romo, who dipped his head and redirected the ball back in front. Martin then fought off the tight, physical marking of Korean defender Jeong Tae-wook to nod it in.
Lee Dong-gyeong matched that for South Korea eight minutes later, accepting a pass from Kim Jin-kyu at the top of the box, taking a half-step to his right before reversing course and bending a left-footed shot into the top right corner.
Romo restored Mexico’s lead in the 29th minute with a left-footed shot from the center of the box off a Vega assist. Ten minutes later Córdova made it a two-goal lead, converting a penalty kick after Uriel Antuna was pulled down in the box.
The team exchanged goals again three minutes apart early in the second half, with Lee cutting Mexico’s two-goal lead in half in the 51st minute when a poor Mexican clearance dropped at his feet, setting him up for a left-footed finish from the left side of the box. Martin pulled that back three minutes later, heading in a long free kick from Córdova for this third goal of the tournament.
But Mexico never let up despite the big lead.
Córdova got his second goal of the game on a left-footed shot from outside the box in the 63rd minute before Diego Lainez set up his team’s final score with an impressive display of dribbling, twisting through two defenders before centering a pass for Eduardo Aguirre, who spun and drove a right-footed shot between two Koreans and into the back of the net.
Hwang Ui-jo’s header a minute into stoppage time closed the scoring.