Ivan Zamorano of Inter Milan made an immediate mark on the Olympic Games on Thursday with a 21-minute hat-trick in Chile’s 4-1 win over Morocco at the Melbourne Cricket Ground.
Gold medal favorites Brazil started their campaign with a stuttering 3-1 win over Slovakia in Brisbane.
In the other matches played Japan came from behind to beat South Africa 2-1 at Bruce Stadium in Canberra, while Spain, another possible medalist, overcame South Korea 3-0 at the Hindmarsh Stadium in Adelaide.
But the night belonged to Zamorano who scored three of Chile’s four goals against the Moroccans and had a hand in the other. Morocco played most of the Group B match with 10 men after defender Adel Chbouki was sent off in the sixth minute.
Zamorano put the South Americans ahead with a header after 37 minutes, added a second from the penalty spot in injury time at the end of the first half and completed his hat-trick in the 55th minute with a shot from the edge of the six-meter line.
In the 72nd minute he was tripped as Morocco gave away a second penalty which Reinaldo Navia converted to make it 4-0. Housainne El Ouchla scored a consolation goal for the Moroccans 10 minutes from the end.
Reports from Thursday’s other matches:
Brazil 3 Slovakia 1 Brazil, widely tipped as gold medal favorites, looked far from convincing for long periods against Slovakia in Brisbane and got off to a poor start in their Group D match when Andrei Porazik took advantage of some slack Brazilian defending to put his side ahead after 26 minutes.
But Brazil roused themselves and equalized four minutes later when Ronaldinho won the ball in midfield and fed Alex on the left. He crossed sweetly for Edu, who chested the ball down before slotting it in.
Brazil went 2-1 ahead after 68 minutes when an angled cross from Fabio Aurelio found its way into the net — but the goal was later credited as an own goal by Marian Cisovsky who got a boot to the ball as it crossed the line.
The South Americans sat back and defended their lead, before Alex, celebrating his 23rd birthday, scored the third just before the end.
Japan 2 South Africa 1 Japan fell behind after 31 minutes of this Group D match in Canberra when Siyabonga Nomvethe sent a brilliantly-executed looping header into the far corner of the net to put South Africa ahead after superb approach work by Benni McCarthy.
But despite dominating much of the early action, South Africa failed to find the net again and allowed Japan back into the match when Naohiro Takahara equalized with a header in injury time at the end of the first half. Takahara was on hand again 11 minutes from time to score the winner after great approach work by Hidetoshi Nakata.
Spain 3 South Korea 0 Spain, looking to repeat their 1992 gold-medal winning performance in Barcelona, were far too strong for South Korea in their Group B match at the Hindmarsh Stadium in Adelaide and never looked back after going ahead in the 10th minute when Spanish skipper Toni Velamazan volleyed home. Jose Mari added the second after 26 minutes with a close-range effort while Xavi made the points certain with the third goal after 37 minutes.