BEIJING (AFP) - Players and coaches heaped praise on Barcelona superstar Lionel Messi after he helped defending champions Argentina into a glamour Olympic semi-final against Brazil.
The influential 21-year-old, considered by many to be the best player in the business, was instrumental in helping his side come through a tough test against the Netherlands 2-1 in their quarter-final.
Messi, who almost didn't play here with his club wanting him back in Spain in time for the Champions League third qualifying round matches, scored the first goal and set up the second for Angel di Maria in extra-time.
"He is one of the best football players in the world," said Argentina coach Sergio Batista.
"The whole team had a great performace in the match. We won the game because of the endeavour of the team."
Even Dutch coach Foppe De Haan was full of praise, and tipped Argentina to beat Brazil on Tuesday.
"I like Messi, even though he's on the other team," he said. "When he gets the ball he is unbelievable. Argentina are better than Brazil, they have a modern passing game."
Like Argentina, Brazil needed extra-time to beat Cameroon 2-0 with Rafael Sobis chipping the goalkeeper to break the deadlock.
Real Madrid's Marcelo made it safe with the second goal four minutes later after leadup work by AC Milan's Ronaldinho and substitute Thiago Neves.
Brazil have won the World Cup five times but have never managed Olympic gold, something they are desperate to put right.
As they work on a plan to shatter Brazil's dreams once again, Argentina plan to consult the legendary Maradona on how best to approach the game.
He arrived in China on Saturday to get behind the team, watching from the VIP box as they beat the Netherlands.
"He came to meet the whole team on Saturday afternoon, he was very kind and cheered everyone up, encouraged everyone, and he told me how to play in this match, like not to make long passes," said striker Sergio Aguero.
"I'll meet him later to talk about the Brazil game."
Brazil have now scored 11 goals in four matches and have yet to concede a goal in the Beijing tournament, adding to Argentinian concerns.
In the other semi-final, Nigeria will play surprise package Belgium, who sent European powerhouse Italy packing 3-2.
Belgium played most of the match a man down after defender Thomas Vermaelen was red-carded early but still managed to go through, which pleased captain Maarten Martens.
"The team is always hard working, but also has some very good qualities," he said.
"Most importantly we all want to achieve something. We won by giving 100 percent. It was really hard but everyone had a lot of belief during the game, even with a player being sent off early on."
They face a tough task against Nigeria in their semi-final on Tuesday after the African giants proved too good for Ivory Coast, winning 2-0.
In the end it was Nigeria's inherited experience from six Olympics and one gold medal which paid off, and coach Samson Siasia said it was their best performance yet.
"Tactically we were very sound and we took our chances," he said.
"Every team who has come to the Olympics wants a gold medal, but it is not easy. There are many obstacles but, of course, having come this far we want the gold now.
"The semi-final is going to be very tough, but it is possible."
|Á. di María||105'|
|L. Messi||14' 81'|
|Pochettino calls for a change of mentality|
|Chelsea to rotate against Bolton - Holland|
|Ibrahimovic to miss Caen clash|
|Gold rush for China at Asian Games|
|Garcia unfazed by Roma injury list|
|Simeone makes case for the defence|
|Morrison set for Cardiff move|
|Liverpool get green light for Anfield expansion|
|Inter sporting director Ausilio signs new deal|
|Suarez to get Under-19 run-out|
|UEFA open proceedings against CSKA and Roma|
|Vidal close to Juve start|
|J.League Review: Frontale end Omiya´s revival, Champions League race hots up|
|CAF Champions League Preview: TP Mazembe and CS Sfaxien have it all to do|
|Pellegrini mulls over Lampard extension|
|Herd completes Bolton loan move|
|De Rossi set to miss Man City and Juventus ties|
|Portugal appoint Fernando Santos|
|Candreva extends Lazio contract|
|Gray plots City downfall after scouting mission|
|O´Neill opts for consistency with Germany on horizon|
|Davies confident of another Hull City cup run|
|Pardew: Time running out for Ameobi|
|Behrami: Teamwork key for Hamburg|
|Magath hits back at ´laughable´ Hangeland|
|Bravo ´not surprised´ by perfect start|
|Mourinho urges Chelsea to control emotions|
|Van Persie hit hardest by Ferguson retirement|
|Martino offers Tevez hope|
|Kompany: Lampard goal could be crucial|
|Not celebrating against old clubs is ´nonsense´ - McCarthy|
|Nuno lauds Valencia players|
|´No concerns´ over Gerrard form - Rodgers|
|Olsen signs contract extension with DC|
|Argentine Primera Division Review: River Plate win again|
|Hamann urges Liverpool to change style|
|Rooney ´not spectacular´ as striker - Van Gaal|
|Spahic to make sensational international return|
|Uruguayan Primera Division Review: Top trio post wins|
|Tevez misses out again as Messi returns|
|Almeria v Atletico Madrid: Gabi issues rallying cry|
|Kouyate out for up to six weeks|
|Barca monitoring Neymar and Rakitic|
|Onazi extends Lazio deal|
|Turkish Super Lig Review: Akhisar Belediyespor continue strong start|
|Academica 2 Estoril 2: Kuca at the double to deny 10-man hosts|
|Wigan Athletic 1 Ipswich Town 2: McCarthy´s men win again|
|Getafe 0 Valencia 3: Visitors go second with comfortable win|
|Juventus v Cesena: Hosts out to maintain perfect record|
|Inter v Atalanta: Mazzarri looking for reaction|
|Borussia Dortmund v Stuttgart: Injury-hit hosts seek swift response|
|West Brom v Hull City: Irvine looking for more of the same in League Cup|
|Russian Premier League Review: CSKA, Dinamo win Moscow derbies|
|Chelsea v Bolton Wanderers: History stacked against the visitors|
|La Liga Preview: Elche set for Real test, Barca head to Levante|
|Rodgers looking for Anfield improvement|
|Pallotta: Strootman is not for sale|
|Zwanziger: 2022 World Cup will not be held in Qatar|
|Caen v Paris Saint-Germain: Blanc out to lift PSG gloom in Normandy|
|Watford boss Garcia released from hospital|
|Inzaghi confident Milan squad can cope with hectic schedule|
|Japan dominate the pool in Incheon|
|Sakho looking to develop Valencia partnership|
|Crystal Palace v Newcastle United: Pardew seeks respite with win at former club|
|Manchester City v Sheffield Wednesday: Gray out to shock City|
|Bowen optimistic away form can continue|
|Tottenham v Nottingham Forest: Kaboul eyes League Cup glory|
|Marotta praises Allegri start|
|League Cup Preview: Sheffield Wednesday, Middlesbrough relish big trips|
|Debuchy out for three months|
|Benteke nearing Villa return|
|Serie A Preview: Roma and Juventus out to maintain perfect starts|
|J.League Preview: Urawa out to consolidate lead|
|Ozil: I have nothing to prove|
|Ribery still on the sidelines for Paderborn clash|
|Malaga v Barcelona: Leaders sweat on Neymar fitness|
|Ancelotti calls for Real unity|
|Anything is possible under Garcia - Gervinho|
|Agger: Rodgers discord led to Liverpool departure|
|Bundesliga Preview: Shock leaders face Bayern test, Stuttgart visit Dortmund|
|Rakitic concentrating on Barca not rivals|
|Rodwell pleased with fitness progress|
|Ligue 1 Preview: Blanc eyes killer instinct|
|PSG must work harder - Ibrahimovic|
|Stoke have held Crouch talks, says Hughes|
|Sanchez confident Hernandez will thrive in Madrid|
|Wasted chances cost Chelsea - Mourinho|
|Pellegrini hails City´s best performance|
|Schneiderlin out to avoid December struggles|
|Pearson buoyed by form of Leicester front three|
|Van Gaal running out of defensive options|
|Champions League no excuse - Sterling|
|Copa Sudamericana Preview: Cerro confident after big win|
|Gentiletti out for six months|
|CONCACAF Champions League Preview: Portland primed for top spot|
|Colombian Primera A Review: Cali rise to the summit|
|Neville slams ´soft-centred´ United|
|Liga del Futbol Profesional Boliviano Review: San Jose go top|
|Ecuadorian Primera A Review: Barcelona move clear|
|Liga MX Review: Ronaldinho scores on league debut|
|Costa Rican Primera Division Review: Nunez fires again for Herediano|
|Paraguayan Division Profesional Review: Sol de America end streak|
|Serie A no two-horse race - Garcia|
|Venezuelan Primera Division Review: Tachira thrash Tucanes|
|Brazilian Serie A Review: Cruzeiro stunned late, Goias crush Palmeiras|
|Peruvian Primera Division Review: Melgar, Cesar Vallejo win again|
|Toronto FC 3 Chivas USA 0: Hosts end winless run|
|Ligue 1 Review: Pressure builds on Blanc, Monaco edge to victory|
|Al-Khelaifi gives Blanc vote of confidence|
|Mazzarri frustrated by draw|
|Luis Enrique salutes ´special´ Messi|
|Iachini laments missed chances|
|La Liga Review: Barca hammer Levante, Villarreal in two-goal comeback|
|Serie A Review: Zeman denied Roma revenge, Inter held|
|Paris Saint-Germain 1 Lyon 1: Umtiti adds to pressure on Blanc|
|Levante 0 Barcelona 5: Five-star Barca crush 10-man hosts|
|Palermo 1 Inter 1: Visitors´ progress checked|
|Arsenal v Southampton: Koeman calls for focus|
|Swansea City v Everton: Both sides looking to bounce back in League Cup|
|Police to investigate after Balotelli abused on Twitter|
|Liverpool v Middlesbrough: Rodgers keen to regain winning habit|
|Arabian Gulf League Review: Al Wahda maintain perfect start, Al Jazira held|
|Real Madrid v Elche: Hosts look to build on Depor demolition|
|Eredivisie Review: Ajax triumph in derby, PSV romp to victory|
|Warnock proud after victory at Goodison|
|Mourinho not interested in Pellegrini jibes|
|Pellegrini slams ´small team´ Chelsea´s approach|
|Bundesliga Review: Leverkusen slip up, Cologne held in derby|
|Martinez rues failure to build on strong start|
|Sewe Sport 1 AC Leopards 0: Kouame strike seals slender advantage|
|Scottish Premiership Review: Derby joy for Dundee United, Celtic held|
|Vita Club 2 CS Sfaxien 1: Hosts seize advantage in semi-final|
|Mixed emotions for Lampard after denying Chelsea|
|Irvine hails best day so far|
|Manchester City 1 Chelsea 1: Lampard denies former club|
|Everton 2 Crystal Palace 3: Howard mistakes cost hosts dear|
|Pearson praises Leicester City spirit|
|Van Gaal laments United collapse|
|Pochettino makes no excuses|
|CSL Review: Evergrande leave it late, Liaoning Whowin edge thriller|
|Leicester City 5 Manchester United 3: Hosts stage famous comeback|
|Tottenham 0 West Brom 1: Morrison gives visitors deserved win|
|Lee claims first Hong Kong gold in Incheon|
|Sunderland v Stoke City: Poyet again up for the cup|
|Ancelotti wants Real consistency|
|Dortmund hit by Mkhitaryan injury blow|
|Inzaghi pleased with Milan progress|
|Monk: Hodgson will be back|
|Pardew: Cisse should not have played|
|We cannot entertain title challenge - Rodgers|
|Bayern Munich v Paderborn: Visitors´ surprise start faces litmus test|
|K. League Review: Suwon close gap on top two|
|Empoli v Milan: Inzaghi eyeing top three|
|MLS Review: Wright-Phillips treble inspires Red Bulls rout|
|Bender: We lacked ambition|
|McInnes unhappy after ugly bust-up|
|Cambiasso impressed with Leicester mentality|
|Valverde: Champions League is not an excuse|
|Simeone wants improvement in discipline|
|Conte keeping tabs on Pelle|
|Marseille deserved to beat Rennes - Bielsa|
|La Liga Review: Real end slump with rout, Atletico share spoils|
|Hart unsure on City future|
|Primeira Liga Review: Quinta inspires first Penafiel win, Braga claim late draw|
|ES Setif 2 TP Mazembe 1: Late winner gives Algerians the edge|
|Inzaghi upbeat despite defeat|