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Football at the Olympics

Five highlights from Brazil's gold medal victory over Spain at Tokyo Olympics

Published at :August 8, 2021 at 3:35 AM
Modified at :December 13, 2023 at 1:01 PM
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(Courtesy :

Sudesh Baniya

The Selecao became only the fifth men's football team to win consecutive gold medals.

On a historic night at Nissan Stadium, the same venue where they won the 2002 FIFA World Cup, Brazil beat Spain to successfully win gold at the Tokyo Olympics. Goals from Matheus Cunha and Malcolm helped the Selecao win 2-1, with Mikel Oyarzabal scoring the lone goal for La Roja.

The night was action-packed – cards started appearing early and to top it off, VAR was called to action to award Brazil a penalty in the first half. But, Richarlison fired wide from the spot. That notwithstanding, the South Americans dominated the game without the ball and clinched a second consecutive gold medal. Here are five key talking points from the gold medal match at the Tokyo Olympics.

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A rare bad night for Richalison

Richarlison had a night to forget individually, despite ending up on the winning side. The Everton striker missed a penalty, registered only one shot on target. Going into the final, the 24-year-old had scored five goals in six starts, including a hat-trick against Germany.

Richarlison's overall play, in addition to his finishing in front of goal, looked rustic. The striker averaged 48% pass completion and lost possession 22 times during his stay. His penalty in the first half went over the crossbar, denying Brazil an obvious lead.

Despite coming close in the 52nd minute after faking a shot to beat Unai Simon, Richarlison hit the crossbar and saw the rebound cleared out. He was eventually replaced with six minutes remaining.

Matheus Cunha and Malcom script Brazil's win

Matheus Cunha, returning after missing out on Brazil's semi-final win against Mexico, scored the first that put Brazil ahead. He then played a crucial role in Brazil's winning goal on the night.

Cunha was a constant threat operating in the No. 10 position and made up for Richarlison's attacking woes on the day. The Hertha Berlin midfielder was also pivotal in Brazil's quarterfinal win against Egypt, scoring the winner in the 37th minute.

Malcolm, on the other hand, has had an exciting tournament, adding a flair to the Brazilian attack coming off the bench on multiple occasions. Against Spain, he scored the winner that handed Brazil the gold at the Tokyo Olympics.

Oyarzabal's equalizer and Spanish subs' influence

Mikel Oyarzabal momentarily equalized in the second half for Spain, volleying home a wonderful delivery past Santos. All of Spain's half-time substitutes were involved in the goal, with Bryan Gil delivering a cross, which was met by Carlos Soler to setup Oyarzabal for the goal. Soler came on for Mikel Merino and Gil replaced Real Madrid attacker Marco Asensio.

The substitutions had a positive impact on Spain's offensive approach. Gil's out and out vertical runs were penetrative, as well as keeping the Brazilian defence busy. Soler, on the other hand, was behind Spain's creativity along with Pedri.

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Diego Carlos' goal-line clearance

Spain came with the mentality to dominate possession and made the defensive job more difficult for the Men in Yellow. It was evident from the very first minute that Brazil had to work off the ball and defend well against quick Spanish movement. Diego Carlos, in this regard, stood out.

Diego Carlos made an acrobatic goal-line clearance in the 16th minute to deny Spain an early lead. Considering that Spain were slowly growing into the game, the lead would have only resulted in Brazil's misery for the rest of the match. With Santos beaten, Carlos cleared the ball for a throw-in. Additionally, he was composed and looked like he could do no wrong on the night.


Both Bryan and Oscar hit the bar as Spain failed to convert chances

Spain were denied obvious opportunities to seal the game within 90 minutes, as Bryan and Oscar Gil hit the post in the second half. Bryan Gil, coming off the bench, missed in the 88th minute after cutting in from the right. The left-footed shot could have done the job for La Roja's first Olympic gold since 1996.

It was only during extra-time that Brazil registered more shots on target. Prior to that, Spain came closer than their opposition but failed to find the net.

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