Final: 3-0 Argentina. The Argentines dance in a circle and then salute the fans. The Brazilians don't. I'm not sure the protocol here, but there was definitely no line of players shaking hands after this one.
The Argentines will face Nigeria in Saturday's final, after the Africans pounded Belgium 4-1 today. The competition moves from Workers Stadium to the National Stadium, aka the Bird's Nest, which could make for some additional electricity. And both men's and women's finals promise offense; the four finalists combined for 15 goals in their semifinal games.
[And many apologies to all who saw the faulty headline. Completely, totally, 100 percent my fault on that one. The original headline said 'Brazil vs. Argentina,' and in my rush to get down to the mixed zone I just put in a 3 and a 0 without changing the order. Not a good feeling, and I'm sorry. But no, I wasn't drinking, and as it turned out they shut down the mixed zone due to the crowd so I didn't make that, either.]
90th minute: Finally an Argentine sub, Sosa for Riquelme. One minute of extra time. When Argentina lays back, the crowd boos. When they want, the Argentines still find attacking space. As well they should.
84th minute: Yeah, like I was saying. Reserve Thiago Neves sweeps the leg against Mascherano, and he's sent off. Brazil down 3-0 on the scoreboard, down 11-9 on the field.
81st minute: And that was inevitable. Red card for Brazil's Lucas, with a pretty nasty tackle from behind on Mascherano. This could get embarrassing. Players bunched together, pointing fingers. Actually, I guess it already is a bit embarrassing.
79th minute: Ronaldinho attempting to do it all himself, loses control. Sorry for confusing references to fake fans; there's one large section, behind one goal. Crowd just announced at 52,900.
77th minute: And with the cheering Argentine media crowd now gone, Dan gets an awesome seat. Brazil getting chippy.
75th minute: Messi to Aguero, who gets pressure from behind by Breno and goes down. Ref gives the penalty. WIth cameras flashing everywhere, Riquelme puts it right at the keeper, who dives left helplessly. It's 3-0 Argentina.
74th minute: Press release: "Because of the extremely high numbers of journalists attending the Argentina V Brazil game, admission to the press conference will be by ticket only. Preference will be given to journalists from Argentina and Brazil."
72nd minute: Brazil a third sub, with Jo in for Diego. If one more media member poses for a photo in front of me, this blog will likely come to a close. Messi flirting with yet another breakaway. Tell MSNBC not to cut away again, because more fireworks are coming.
70th minute: Spectating tip: Never count on a bucket of popcorn and four rolls from a Chinese soccer stadium to be dinner. Brazil showing all sorts of creativity on offense, which was entirely missing until the deficit. Messi goes through four defenders but no shot.
68th minute: Yeah, that was the same crowd that was just chanting for Argentina. If the referees teamed up for a goal, the crowd here would cheer. Have I mentioned that members of the press stood and went nuts for both Argentina goals? Sporting culture outside the U.S. is a bigger adjustment than the food or transportation.
65th minute: And wackiness continues. Ronaldinho beats the keeper cleanly but finds wood on the free kick, the rebound is crossed and slotted in (no replays, sorry), Brazil sprints back toward the mid stripe and the PA system starts playing the celebration music, but it's offside the whole way. The crowd boos.
65th: And Argentina picks up a yellow on the free kick. They don't announce yellows here. That's nice.
63rd minute: Dangerous cross by Rafinha knocked out by Garay. Corner doesn't develop, but Argentina's Pareja picks up a yellow.
60th minute: Messi nearly breaks free. Brazil substitutes: Thiago Neves for Hernandez, and Pato for Rafael Sobis. The crowd's chanting "Ar-gen-tin-a."
58th minute: 2-0 Argentina. Sustained offensive brilliance by the Argentines or a passive Brazilian defense? Either way, it started with a free kick that wasn't kicked, with Di Maria and Messi skirting around the perimeter unmolested. Finally a cross from Garay (I think) to Aguero, who had plenty of net to look at and didn't make a mistake.
54th minute: And now Brazil is alive; a cross from Rafinha to Ronaldinho is just a hair too far and is punched away, and then Rafael Sobis beats the keeper but finds the post. Then they're back again, and Rafinha's dangerous attempt floats wide. The crowd roars. Brazil apparently needed the deficit to get creative.
53rd minute: Goal Argentina. Di Maria sends a left-footed drive into the box, onto a charging Aguero, who attempts to get a foot on it. Tough to tell on the replay, but looked like it was the hip that did it.
51st minute: Fake fans try to get crowd into it, fail. The speedy Aguero briefly sees space on the left, but he's closed out by three defenders. Argentina's speed, though, has been obvious several times.
48th minute: Rafael Sobis on a nice run, but he's offside.
47th minute: Stadium could really use some Hungarian handball fans. It's dead again. Media members busy posing for photographs, further limiting my view. Neither team can string possession together.
End first half: After one minute of stoppage, still no score. Bring on the weird mascots and soccer cheerleaders. "Another fabulous performance," the PA promises.
Argentina 2-0 shots on goal, 4-3 shots, 3-0 corners at the half.
PA announces gold medal standings, with China on top. Not much reaction from the crowd.
Man walks buy wearing signed Messi jersey and media pass. Nice.
Cheerleaders focus on small group of Brazilian supporters during their routine. Smart move.
First half yellows for Argentina's Zabaleta, and Brazil's Breno and Hernanes.
I'm no cultural anthropologist, or whatever, but the reaction Ronaldinho is getting here feels similar to what Kobe gets every night at Wukesong Gymnasium; touching the ball is enough for either to draw roars. Of course, Kobe dunks a lot more than Ronaldinho.
Maradona again on the big screen, talking on his cell phone. He waves. More cheering.
44th minute: Repeated lackadaisical play by the Brazilian back line. This game screams 1-0 Argentina.
43rd minute: Long left-footed try by Brazil's Hernanes soars high.
41st minute: They say America has a highlight reel culture, but Chinese Olympic crowds are worse. Dead silence in between pleasing plays.
And now Messi with sublime work in front of the net. His left-footed try is pushed wide by the keeper. Argentines keep possession, and the fans chant for Messi. Set piece from the right corner is again handled by the keeper.
39th minute: Oddly orange full moon overhead, or nearly full anyhow. Ronaldinho nearly springs Rafael Sobis down the left side. It's another night of heavy humidity. Brazilians keep gambling on defense. Di Maria and Zabaleta more nifty giving and going, but nothing doing.
35th minute: Marcelo cross to Rafael Sobis, who gets a head on it but without direction.
32nd minute: And here's the best chance thus far, as Messi is tripped up just outside the box on the right side. Riquelme's try goes straight into the wall, and after some ping-ponging a cross skirts dangerously in front of the Brazil net. No one home.
31st minute: Marcelo creates space on the left flank for Brazil, but launches his bid far off target.
28th minute: Brazil's Rafael Sobis goes down, and when he eventually gets back up the fans thunderstick their approval. Maradona gets a big cheer on the big screen and waves.
26th minute: It's sort of depressing to realize that I'd have a much better grasp on this game if I had stayed at the office. The wave gets interrupted by media seating, and the fans boo the media.
A little give and go from Messi to Gago and back draws oohs and ahhs, as does Ronaldinho dribbling through three Argentines, although both plays fizzle.
24th minute: Turnover by Brazil's Anderson without any pressure draws boos, but the crowd then launches into a "Brasil" chant.
Did you know that at Olympic soccer games anyone who orders a Coke has to wait while the staffer pours it out of the bottle. It's not the speediest system. Yeah, that's right, I still can't see.
20th minute: Brazil's Breno gets a yellow on what looks like a tough call. Fans start doing the wave. The free kick is handled by Renan.
17th minute: Argentina corner kick grabbed by Renan, the Brazilian keeper.
12th minute: And Messi fires wide from close range for Argentina.
8th minute: Since I can't really see the field, I can tell you this:
Every time Ronaldinho touches the ball, the crowd goes wild
Brazil has had the better of the scoring chances, and there's a lot more yellow than blue in the crowd.
Strangely, there are pockets of empty seats scattered throughout the stadium, although virtually none of the fake yellow-shirted fans. And I haven't seen a media crowd close to this size.
Pre-game: So apparently this soccer thing is popular. Who knew?
Not to throw my boss under the bus, but for two weeks I've heard about how no one really cares about Olympic men's soccer, even the hardcore footie fans, and how the women's tournament and the Mr. Clean Sid Breem Hakeem Kareem Dream Redeem Team were both bigger deals.
Then I tried to get onto a media bus to go to Workers Stadium 90 minutes before the game was scheduled to start. No chance. Packed full. Media members hanging out the door and filling the stairwell and trying to jam their way in. A second bus came. That one quickly became standing room only. Easily the most diverse and biggest media crowd I've seen heading to any venue.
I was at the U.S.-China men's basketball game, which had all the buzz you could want, and it was nothing like that. Not even close. Once we got here, more mayhem, with media members trying to force their way into the media section, the Chinese security guards insisting it was full and threatening arrest, reinforcements stepping in, etc. We all got up just before kickoff, and the game is now underway, although I can barely see anything from my seat. But I will provide live updates here, and welcome your thoughts below.