Spain end 21-year wait for Olympic goal, win

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Mon, 26 Jul 2021 - 06:50 GMT

TOKYO • Spain's striking woes extend not just to the senior team, as evident at Euro 2020, but also their junior team.

But La Roja are still one of the favourites for the gold medal in the Olympics' men's football competition, on account of their strength in depth.

Along with defending champions Brazil, Spain have the strongest line-up of any team at the Tokyo Games.

Six players who featured in their run to the last four of Euro 2020, including No. 1 goalkeeper Unai Simon and Pedri, the Young Player of the Tournament, started their second Group C game and their presence was vital as they beat Australia 1-0 yesterday.

Just like their goal-less opening draw with Egypt, Spain again dominated against the Olyroos with over 70 per cent possession, while their opponents failed to muster a shot on target in Sapporo.

However, the lack of a cutting edge almost proved costly again till skipper Mikel Oyarzabal's 80th-minute headed winner.

 
 
 

The Real Sociedad forward, who started in Spain's Euro 2020 semi-final shoot-out defeat by Italy, was his team's most dangerous player, striking the bar in the first half as he ended his country's 21-year wait for both an Olympic goal and win.

Spain now need to only draw their final game against Argentina on Wednesday to top Group C and reach the next round.

Brazil, the other big favourites here, are also having to battle for a result after being held to a 0-0 stalemate against Ivory Coast.

The Selecao, who won the gold for the first time five years ago in Rio de Janeiro, could have all but sealed their place in the knockout stage. But they were denied by the Ivorians, who were anchored by Manchester United defender Eric Bailly, in Yokohama.

It could have been worse, though, as they had to play more than an hour with 10 men, after Aston Villa midfielder Douglas Luiz was sent off in the 13th minute for committing a last-man foul.

In Saitama, France would have been staring at an early exit with a slip-up against South Africa, but veteran Andre-Pierre Gignac's hat-trick secured a 4-3 win, eliminating their opponents.

The 35-year-old striker, who plays for Mexican side Tigres, said: "After each South African goal, it felt a little more like we were on the plane back.

"We saw the joy after Teji's (Savanier) goal and we gave ourselves a final (group match) against Japan (on Wednesday). With heart, we can do well. We don't want to return to France."

Japan top Group A with two wins in as many games after beating Mexico 2-1. Goals from Real Madrid winger Takefusa Kubo and PSV Eindhoven midfielder Ritsu Doan put the hosts in control inside the first 11 minutes and it was enough, despite Roberto Alvarado pulling one back in Saitama.

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