Four teams in race for medals

1 Aug 2021
  • Mouth-watering semi-finals in store at Tokyo 2020

  • Hosts Japan hoping to reach first ever final

  • Three former winners in last four, including holders Brazil

The tension levels are well and truly climbing at the Men's Olympic Football Tournament, with just four teams left ahead of Tuesday's semi-finals. And expect sparks to fly as Mexico and Brazil kick off the day's first game – a rematch of the 2012 final. El Tri won on that occasion and tackle holders Brazil as the top scorers at Tokyo 2020 with 14 goals, meaning this match has all the ingredients to be a spectacular contest. The second semi-final will pit Spain against a Japan team now carrying the host nation's hopes after their women's side were knocked out in the quarter-finals. Japan have only reached this far once before and are now intent on going all the way, having missed out on a medal in 2012. To do that, they will need to get past 1992 winners Spain and their armada of world-class talents. Both teams will go into the game having required extra time in the last eight, when Japan survived a penalty shoot-out to progress.

The fixtures

Tuesday 3 August

Mexico - Brazil Kashima Stadium, 17:00 (local time)

Japan - Spain  Saitama Stadium, 20:00 (local time)

Key points

Kubo facing old friends Although he was kept quiet against New Zealand in the quarter-finals, Takefusa Kubo has played a crucial role for Japan so far, scoring in all three of his team's Group A fixtures. The Real Madrid youngster will now be raring to impress against Spain as he meets up with several familiar faces, including Marc Cucurella, his team-mate while on loan at Getafe earlier this year. Kubo will also be reunited with Pau Torres of Villarreal, where the 20-year-old spent the first half of last season on loan. Echoes of Blanco After hitting one goal during the group stage, Sebastian Cordova helped himself to a double and an assist during Mexico's quarter-final against Korea Republic. Recently handed the No10 shirt by his club side America, the forward celebrated finding the net by lying on the pitch in the style made famous by Cuauhtemoc Blanco, the legendary former America No10 – and a player Cordova hopes to emulate. The 24-year-old did not reveal during a press conference whether he would repeat the gesture against Brazil, but he will go into that game brimming with confidence.

Fancy seeing you again… Japan and Spain will lock horns less than a month on from their warm-up friendly on 17 July, a game that ended 1-1. Although Spain dominated the encounter, it was Japan who took a first-half lead when Ritsu Doan fired high into the net, with La Roja eventually drawing level when Carlos Soler finished a move started by Pedri. Will their semi-final showdown prove just as tight? Brilliant Brazil Richarlison has taken most of the plaudits in attack for Brazil at Tokyo 2020, topping the goal charts with five strikes. Nevertheless, he handed the baton to Matheus Cunha against Egypt during the quarter-finals, setting his team-mate up to score the only goal of the game. Cunha's second of the tournament, it was also his 20th effort overall for the U-23s. And if Mexico want to know more of what the Hertha Berlin forward is capable, they only need watch his stunning goal nominated for the FIFA Puskás Award in 2019, when his fellow contenders included Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Lionel Messi.  

The quote

"It's an exciting tie. Brazil are one of the teams we thought could make it to the final, and it's great to be playing them before that. If you want to be champions, you have to face the best – and I think Brazil are among the best." Henry Martin, Mexico forward