A day after the women’s tournament began, men’s football at the 2020 Olympics got underway, with all 16 teams in action and looking to get off to a strong start.
The rematch of the 2016 gold medal match between Brazil and Germany was the pick of the fixtures, but there were several other big games involving France, Mexico, Argentina and Australia.
Here’s a look at all the results from matchday one…
Mexico 4-1 France
France’s lack of real preparation, which saw a heavily revised squad submitted after a number of original call-ups had to pull out when clubs denied permission to go to the Olympics, probably contributed to a heavy opening defeat against Mexico.
Alexis Vega and Sebastian Cordova scored either side of half-time to give Mexico a 2-0 lead. Andre-Pierre Gignac, who plays his club football in Mexico, pulled one back from the penalty spot, only for a French collapse to see the score-line extended to 4-1 late on.
France now have a significant hill to climb if they are to reach the knockout stages, while Mexico will take confidence that a repeat of their 2012 gold medal might be doable.
Japan 1-0 South Africa
Hosts Japan were made to wait until well into the second half to get the decisive goal in their opening game against South Africa, with Real Madrid talent Takefusa Kubo striking the key blow.
Kubo cut inside from the left and fired a low short across the goal into the far corner, a strike definitely worthy of being the matchwinner.
There had been concerns as to whether the game would even go ahead after most of the South African were identified as close contacts of two players who tested positive for COVID-19. But most were able to pass the necessary protocols in order to play the game.
New Zealand 1-0 South Korea
New Zealand gave themselves an excellent chance of making it through to the knockout stages of an Olympic men’s tournament for the first time after group stage exits in both 2008 and 2012.
Burnley striker Chris Wood, one of the over-age players in the squad and a veteran of the 2012 Olympic side, scored the only goal of their opening win over South Korea.
It wasn’t the start that the Koreans would have wanted in what is potentially a very open group.
Honduras 0-1 Romania
A single own goal from Edwin Oliva was all that could separate Romania and Honduras, with the Honduran right-back turning the ball into his net in first half stoppage time.
Romania can consider themselves extremely lucky as the victory came despite failing to register a shot on target from seven overall attempts throughout the game. Honduras, meanwhile, had five shots on target from 17 efforts, as well as edging possession.
In arguably the weakest group in the tournament, trying to get an opening win to build momentum was always going to be crucial for all four countries involved.
Egypt 0-0 Spain
Spain named six players who featured in the Euro 2020 semi-final earlier in this month in their starting XI against Egypt. That level of quality is the main reason La Roja are the favourites to win gold at this tournament, but they failed to break down a resilient opponent.
Egypt were denied permission by Liverpool to name Mohamed Salah in their squad but will take confidence from getting a good first result in a very tough group.
Spain unsurprisingly dominated possession and did hit the post through Dani Ceballos, but the elusive goal never came as Egypt clung on for a point.
Argentina 0-2 Australia
Australia pulled off a big shock against two-time former champions Argentina, scoring early and late to secure a 2-0 win and given themselves a solid platform from which they now have a previously unexpected good chance to make the knockout rounds.
Lachlan Wales put Australia ahead inside the opening 15 minutes, before substitute Marco Tilio doubled that advantage with just 10 minutes plus stoppage time remaining.
Argentina had more of the ball but Australia were more efficient with it and took their chances.
Ivory Coast 2-1 Saudi Arabia
Ivory Coast knew that beating Saudi Arabia in their first game was going to be vital to progress from an extremely tough group and that is exactly what they did.
A goal from AC Milan midfielder Franck Kessie decided the contest in the second half, with an own goal initially giving the Ivorians the lead and then established senior international Salem Al-Dawsari grabbing an equaliser just before the interval.
Both of these teams now face Brazil and Germany in games to come, although the latter’s struggles in the opening game will give the others hope.
Brazil 4-2 Germany
The repeat of the 2016 gold medal match was full of goals and action, with Everton forward Richarlison completing a hat-trick in the first half hour as Brazil raced into an unexpectedly comfortable 3-0 lead.
Germany looked poor defensively and were spared more embarrassment when goalkeeper Florian Muller saved a penalty from Mathues Cunha.
Germany did pull one back through Nadiem Amiri and later made it 3-2 in the closing stages after captain Max Arnold had been sent off. But a fourth Brazil goal deep into stoppage time from Paulinho made sure of the reigning champions’ win.
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