Neymar, Brazil come out blazing in semifinals
RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — The Brazilian Olympic team has struggled mightily on its home turf during the Rio Games. Maybe Neymar and the crew can salvage something for the hosts.
Brazil's celebrated men's soccer team rolled to a 6-0 win over Honduras in the semifinals on Wednesday to earn a spot in the gold medal match.
Rio's Day 12 of competition also has action in men's basketball and medals up for grabs in track and field, beach volleyball and wrestling.
Brazil started the day 16th in the medal standings, with only three gold medals in the first 11 days of the games. Two of the country's best chances remaining to reach the top of the podium were competing on Wednesday, with the men's soccer team in the afternoon and Agatha and Barbara scheduled to go for gold in beach volleyball just before midnight.
Empty seats have been prevalent across the Rio Games venues, but not on Wednesday at Maracana Stadium, where they packed in to watch Neymar and co. They didn't have to wait long to cheer, with Neymar scoring 15 seconds into the game. It was the fastest goal in men's Olympic history, and Brazil led 3-0 going into halftime to cruise into the gold medal game.
Neymar added a goal on a penalty kick in stoppage time and Gabriel Jesus also scored twice for Brazil, which got off to a slow start in the tournament that left their passionate fans concerned. But they have picked up the pace as the games have gone on and will face either Nigeria or Germany in the finals.
Agatha and Barbara, the defending world champions, beat Americans Kerri Walsh Jennings and April Ross in the semifinals on Tuesday night to reach the finals. They will play Germany's Laura Ludwig and Kira Walkenhorst.
The improved play of the soccer team and the beach volleyball tandem's run come as welcome respites for the beleaguered Brazilians, who have seen the Rio Games deal with distraction, disorganization and tragedy for the last two weeks.
The problems continued on Wednesday when a Brazilian judge ordered that the passports of American swimmers Ryan Lochte and Jimmy Feigen be seized and that the swimmers stay in Brazil as authorities investigate Lochte's claims that he was robbed at gunpoint. Lochte's father told The Associated Press that his son had returned to the U.S. before the order was issued.
Also on Wednesday, IOC member Patrick Hickey of Ireland stepped aside from his Olympic positions after being arrested in a ticket scalping investigation. Ireland's national Olympic committee said Wednesday Hickey is stepping down "until the matter is fully resolved." Hickey is accused of plotting with at least nine others to illegally sell tickets for the Olympics.
In other highlights from Day 12:
BOLT'S BACK: Usain Bolt takes another step toward another sweep in the sprints. The Jamaican was 3 for 3 in Beijing and again in London. And so far he's 1 for 1 in Rio. The 200-meter semifinals start at 10 p.m.
USA HOOPS: After meeting in the semifinals of the last three Olympics, the U.S. men's basketball team plays Argentina in the quarterfinals. The Americans, challenged in their last three games, would fail to medal in the Olympics for the first time with a loss.
BEACH BRONZE: Few bronze medal games will feature a more intriguing matchup than the one on Copacabana Beach, where Walsh Jennings, who has won three gold medals, and Ross will face Brazil's top-seeded top-seeded team of Talita and Larissa.
WOMEN'S GOLF: Inbee Park shot 5-under 66 to take the early lead as women's golf returned to the Olympics for the first time since 1900. Park, who has won seven major championships, is playing for the first time in two months because of a thumb injury.