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Argentina beats Brazil 1-0 to secure spot at Paris Olympics and eliminate archrival

CARACAS (AP) — Brazil will not defend its Olympic men's soccer title in London after losing 1-0 to its regional rival Argentina on Sunday.

In the decisive South American Olympic qualifier, Luciano Gondou scored the winner for the Argentina under-23 team coached by Javier Mascherano. He headed a cross from Valentin Barco past goalkeeper Mycael in the 78th minute at the Brigido Iriarte Stadium in Caracas.

Brazil won gold at men's soccer in the Rio de Janeiro and Tokyo Olympics.

South America's Olympic qualifying for men's soccer offered two spots in Paris. Paraguay ended on the top of the table of the final group stage with seven points in three matches after its 2-0 win on Sunday against host Venezuela.

The Paraguayan team, which didn't have star players like its two bigger continental rivals, also beat Brazil to secure its spot for France.

Argentina finished the tournament with five points, two more than Brazil, which only managed to beat Venezuela in the final stage.

Argentina had the upper hand in the first half but the defensive stance of Brazil, coached by Ramon Menezes, didn’t help bring much emotion to the match. World Cup winner Thiago Almada hit the post in the 16th minute.

Argentina’s Leandro Brey made the best save of the game in the 61st, when substitute Gabriel Pec struck hard from close range. Brazil did not keep up the pressure, with striker Endrick once more playing below par. And then Gondou's header made the difference between the two teams.

“We deserved this. We didn't lose a single match at the qualifying," said Gondou, who scored four goals in the tournament in Venezuela. “We suffered, we waited for this goal, but at the end we got it."

Brazil last failed to make the men’s soccer Olympic tournament in 2004.

“It is a very bad feeling, we prepared well for this,” Brazil midfielder Andrey Santos said. “We struggled to keep the ball throughout the tournament. It didn’t go as we expected.”

Argentina won the gold at men's soccer at the games in Athens 2004 and Beijing 2008, with Lionel Messi leading the team in Beijing.

Paraguay's surprising spot in Paris came after Diego Gómez scored from the spot early in the second half and Marcelo Pérez pushed the ball with his head to an empty goal in the 75th minute after a bizarre mistake of the Venezuelan defense.

Paraguay's men's soccer team has given the small South American nation one of its few medals in Olympic history; a silver in 2004 after losing the final against Argentina.

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AP Olympics: https://apnews.com/hub/2024-paris-olympic-games