Men's Olympic football qualifiers: Brazil and Argentina escape elimination. GETTY IMAGES

The Brazilians were minutes away from being eliminated from Paris 2024, but in the dying minutes they scored the goal that brought them back to life. Argentina, meanwhile, drew in stoppage time and still had a chance. Both will decide their Olympic qualification in a head-to-head encounter.

As expected, South America's pre-Olympic football showpiece has not gone unnoticed, not only for the quality of its players but also for the closeness and excitement that has characterised the U-23s' quest for a place at the Summer Games. The tournament in Venezuela was no exception. 

From the first round, in which the giants of South American football battled it out to qualify (something that doesn't happen in World Cup qualifiers, where everyone plays everyone else), to the final group stage, in which the thrilling shifts in the standings have made it necessary to look at the table and speculate about the opponents who will secure a place in Paris. 

Indeed, on the second matchday of the finals, Paraguay went from the relegation (Argentina won most of the game) to qualification in the space of a few minutes (they were 2-1 up and then 3-2 up).

That agonising goal kept Argentina's Olympic hopes alive . Led by double Olympic gold medallist Javier Mascherano, they now awaited the final match of the day against Venezuela, who were hoping to repeat their shock victory over Brazil in the group stage. 

If they failed to do so, Brazil would automatically be eliminated and the Albiceleste's chances would rise as their last match would be against the already eliminated Brazilians. 

With that in mind, Brazil approached the game as if it were the final, and although they stumbled and needed the help (or the justice) of the VAR to see Matias Lacava's 2-1 overturned, their historic quality prevailed to secure victory.

The Venezuelan celebrations in Caracas were silenced by the justice of technology when Guilherme Biró scored a consolation goal in the 88th minute. It was a goal that not only saddened "La Vinotinto", but also the Argentinians, who lost the edge in the final showdown, the most eagerly awaited clash of the tournament. Argentina versus Brazil for a place in Paris. 

The match will go ahead, but what was an advantage for the Argentinians in the last game has now become one for the Brazilians, who need a draw or a win to book their place in Paris. Argentina, on the other hand, have no choice but to win if they are to go to Paris. 

Paraguay, who needed at least a draw in their final game after drawing 3-3 with Argentina, will face Venezuela, who are still in with a chance of making it to France..

The options:

With one game left to go, Paraguay lead the final four with four points, followed by Brazil on three. Argentina have two points and Venezuela are bottom with one point. Victory for the "Albiceleste" will see them through to Paris. 

A draw or victory will be enough for Brazil to secure the right to defend their last Olympic gold, won in Tokyo in 2020, and go for a third successive title on French soil. Paraguay, the revelation of the tournament, will also go to Paris 2024 with a draw or a victory.

Meanwhile, Venezuela must win to equal Paraguay on points (4 units) and hope that Brazil and Argentina draw in order to start counting goals and try to reach Paris that way (in the event of a draw, it will be goal difference, then goals scored, fewer red cards and so on until a lucky draw).


Venezuela-Paraguay (17:00 local time) 

Argentina-Brazil (20:00 local time)

Pre-Olympic U-23 standings:

Paraguay: 4 points (+1); Brazil: 3 points (0); Argentina - 2 points (0); Venezuela - 1 point (-1).

Tie-breaking criteria:

Although the top two teams on points will qualify from the four teams competing in the final phase, there may be a tie between two or more teams on points. 

In the event of a tie, the following tie-breaking criteria will be applied in the following order: 

-Head-to-Head: Taking into account only the matches played in the final phase between the tied teams, the tie will be broken in favour of the team that has: 

A) A greater number of points accumulated in the matches between the teams in the final phase. 

B) A greater goal difference in the matches between the teams in the final phase. Goal difference is calculated by subtracting goals scored from goals conceded. 

C) A greater number of goals scored in the final phase matches between the teams. 

-If there is still a tie, greater goal difference in all the matches in the final phase: 

-If still tied, greater number of goals scored in all final phase matches. 

-If tied, fewer red cards in the entire tournament. Fewer yellow cards in the entire tournament if the teams are still tied. 

-By draw, organised and administered by the Conmebol Competitions and Operations Department.