Coming into the 2016 Olympics men's soccer tournament, Argentina were seen as a dark horse threat to challenge for a place in the gold medal match. On Wednesday, Argentina were eliminated before even getting out of the group stage even after salvaging a 1-1 draw against Honduras in stoppage time, finishing third in their group after a woeful performance.
Argentina had chances to score early and often, with Jonathan Calleri and Giovani Lo Celso playing each other in for numerous shots throughout the first half and well into the second half as well. The attacking duo had a noticeable athletic edge over the Honduran back line, and took full advantage of it -- but Honduras seemed to expect that to happen, because they were able to force Calleri and Lo Celso into poor shooting positions time and again with great ease, turning Argentina's numerous attacks into low-percentage chances that weren't much of a genuine threat.
That tactical advantage and knowing that any draw would see them through gave Honduras a big leg up in the match, but they didn't use that to just bunker up and absorb Argentina's pressure. They could have, especially with Angel Correa and Cristian Pavon not giving Argentina any effective width to force Honduras to change their approach, but they didn't. Honduras still got forward frequently and dangerously, with Alberto Elis in particular causing a great threat from the right flank with his pace, at one point forcing Argentina goalkeeper Jeronimo Rulli into a desperation challenge that gave up a penalty at the end of the first half.
Rulli would save that penalty, but it was far from the only danger he'd face. With Argentina's defense having to focus so much on keeping Elis' pace at bay, it opened up opportunities for striker Antony Lozano, winger Rommel Quioto and midfielder Bryan Acosta to create dangerous chances for Honduras. Struggles with their final ball kept Honduras from scoring in open play, but a second penalty earned by Elis in the 73rd minute would prove to be more than Argentina could bear, with Lozano putting it away from the spot.
Argentina would finally score through Mauricio Martinez off a free kick in stoppage time, but even if the final score was a 1-1 draw it felt like a loss for the Albiceleste. They were eliminated and clearly outplayed by a team that they should have dominated had they actually played to their capability. Argentina played nowhere near that level at any point in their Olympics run, though, and Honduras advanced over them because of it.
This wasn't actually Honduras' best performance of the tournament -- that would probably be their group-opening win over Algeria -- but they did everything they needed to make Argentina look poor and easily get the result they needed. In a tournament format, that's all you can ask for, and now Honduras are in the quarterfinals because of their excellent gameplan against Argentina.
Argentina, meanwhile, will need to keep looking for answers. Yes, their national team setup is in a bit of turmoil right now after a second straight Copa America final loss, the abrupt firing of their manager and FIFA putting Argentina's FA into administrative oversight after years of mismanagement and corruption. But Argentina are still a side you expect to do well in a tournament like this because of their wealth of talent, or at least much better than they did in this Olympics tournament. They just never looked like Argentina, though, and they're going home far earlier than they wanted to because of it.