Marco Asensio emerged as the hero for La Roja as they also made it to the Olympic gold medal match.
Marco Asensio’s stunning 115th-minute finish, preceded by Santos’ heroic double save in the penalties, guided Spain and Brazil to wins in their respective men’s football semi-finals at Tokyo Olympics. Spain overcame a disciplined side in Japan, shattering the hosts’ aim of an Olympic gold. Rafa Mir made it to the starting lineup following a hat-trick against the Ivory Coast, as Spain ultimately opted to start with a number 9.
On the other hand, Brazil’s victory marked revenge for their finale loss eight years ago in London. Both Brazil and Spain, despite looking dominant, did not manage to secure wins in the regular 90 minutes of football at Tokyo Olympics.
From the exciting semi-finals of the men’s football event, at Tokyo Olympics, here are Khel Now’s key takeaways.
Santos’ shootout heroics steer Brazil past Mexico
Shot-stopper Santos denied Eduardo Aguirre and Johan Vasquez in the penalty shootout, as Brazil moved a step closer to retaining the Olympic gold. The first semi-final in Kashima ended in a scoreless draw at the end of both regulation and extra-time. Brazil scored all four spot-kicks to register a 4-1 win in the shootout. Dani Alves and Arsenal youngster Gabriel Martnelli were amongst the successful penalty-takers for the Selecao.
Prior to the shootout drama, the game was relatively balanced. Despite making good movements early on to stretch the defensive line, Brazil were unable to penetrate through the Mexican defence. VAR overturned a penalty decision in the 29th minute after Douglas Luis fell on a soft challenge inside the box. Mexico followed it up with two promising shots towards the end of the first half. Uriel Antuna’s shot was closed down by Santos in the first minute of added time, as Brazil survived the most dangerous chance of the half.
Brazil continued to be on the ball, yet were less fluid than the first half in the later stages. Both sides had sparse activity in front of goal and much of what happened were misplaced passes. Richarlison‘s shot came off the bar in the 82nd minute, ultimately pushing the tie to extra-time. Extra-time followed second half’s not-so-appealing tempo and prompted the shootout.
Brazil, contesting their first shootout of the tournament, scored all their kicks from the spot. The Selecao will contest their third consecutive Olympic final, looking to defend the gold against Spain.
Asensio’s scores a splendid goal as Spain edge past Japan on extra time
It took Spanish ace Marco Asensio’s beautiful finish from inside the box to overcome the hosts in the second semi-final of men’s football at Tokyo Olympics. Coming off the bench, the Real Madrid attacker scored late in the 115th minute off Mikel Oyarzabal’s assist. Asensio took Oyarzabal’s delivery on the right and shot it with his left, into the top corner after a beautiful turn. The regular 90 minutes finished in a scoreless draw prior to the goal.
It was a regular display from Spain throughout the game. Dominating possessions and passing it sideways to stretch the opposition defence was all that La Roja looked to do. Japan’s game plan was based on adapting to Spain’s tendencies to have more of the ball, as they looked to break in transitions and capitalize on counter-attacks.
Rafa Mir got behind the Japanese defence in the 38th minute, but was denied by the Japanese goalkeeper. In addition, a penalty for Spain was overturned by VAR in the 56th minute. The referee pointed to the spot after Merino went down to Maya Yoshida’s challenge, only to rule it out afterwards.
Lacking verticality and quick exchange between the lines, the Spanish side looked rather redundant. Despite making a few substitutions, Spain took a similar approach in extra-time as well. If not for the Asensio strike, the game looked set to be up for a penalty shootout.
On the other side of things, Takefusa Kubo forced a couple of saves towards the end of the second half. Kubo’s shot in the 72nd minute marked Japan’s first shot on target on the night. But Unai Simon was up to it and solid throughout the night.
La Roja will now battle for their first gold in men’s football after the 1992 Olympics against Brazil in Tokyo on Saturday.