Sunday 25 July 2021, 16:36

Comebacks and revivals set up thrilling group stage finale

  • Intriguing matchday leaves all to play for at Tokyo 2020

  • Japan remain perfect, Saudi Arabia suffer elimination

  • reviews the latest from the Men’s Olympic Football Tournament

Another dramatic and competitive matchday at Tokyo 2020 was marked by come-from-behind wins and teams rebounding from opening defeats. If evidence is needed that the Men’s Olympic Football Tournament is a tightly balanced competition, one needs to look no further than the fact 15 of the 16 teams will be playing for a quarter-final ticket on Wednesday. Only Japan boast a perfect record after two rounds, while at the other end of the spectrum, just Saudi Arabia have been eliminated. No fewer than five nations recovered from opening-day defeats leaving four intriguingly matched tables and a thrilling finale in store.

Results Group A France 4-3 South Africa Japan 2-1 Mexico

France came out on top by the odd goal in seven against South Africa after a wild second-half concluded with a Teji Savanier injury-time winner. Captain Andre-Pierre Gignac drew France level on three occasions – the final time with just four minutes remaining – before Savanier delivered the final blow on an unlucky South Africa. Japan put one hand on a spot in the quarter-finals with Takefusa Kubo and Ritsu Doan turning on the style in a memorable opening 45 minutes for the hosts. The pair netted a goal apiece inside the opening 11 minutes and, although Roberto Alvarado pulled a goal back in the dying stages for a Mexico side who by then were down to ten players after a Johan Vasquez red card, Japan deservedly retained their perfect record after two matches. Group B New Zealand 2-3 Honduras Romania 0-4 Korea Republic

Honduras mounted a stirring comeback to bounce back from opening day defeat to ensure Group B will go down to the wire. For awhile, New Zealand were well placed to build on their surprise opening win thanks to a stunning early strike from Liberato Cacace, but Honduras twice drew level before Rigoberto Rivas found a winner with three minutes remaining. Romania’s opening-round promise ended emphatically at the hands of a hungry Korea Republic who bagged three second-half goals and could have had more. Romania had no answer to the Koreans’ sharpness on the ball and the result leaves all four sides on three points.

Group C Egypt 0-1 Argentina Australia 0-1 Spain

Argentina were another side to rebound and secure a much-needed win but they faced a massive task to outlast a somewhat unlucky Egypt. Ramadan Sobhi narrowly failed to give Egypt a lead early on, and a second-half winner from Facundo Medina pushed the South Americans back into contention but leaves their opponents on the brink of elimination. One of the pre-tournament favourites Spain dominated against a gallant Australia and looked likely to register a second successive scoreless stalemate. They were forced to wait until Mikel Oyarzabal, who had hit the crossbar in the first half, finally broke through with a glancing header ten minutes from full-time. Group D Brazil 0-0 Côte d'Ivoire Saudi Arabia 2-3 Germany

There two red cards but no goals in Yokohama. Douglas Luiz and Eboue Kouassi were given their marching orders for Brazil and Côte d'Ivoire either side of half-time, with a draw ultimately a fair outcome. Both sides were going for the win in the first half but seemed to ease off in the second, with the point leaving both nations well placed after opening-round wins.

That left Saudi Arabia and Germany battling to stay in the hunt and avoid an early exit. Despite twice equalising, Saudi Arabia will be heading home after Germany took the lead for the third and final time on 75 minutes.

Memorable moments Captain delivers when most needed Gignac was perhaps a surprise selection for France but the grizzled veteran is more than proving his worth in Japan. Gignac netted a 29-minute second-half treble to almost single-handedly lift his side from deep trouble against a spirited South Africa and gain three invaluable points. After also scoring against Mexico – the nation where he plays his club football – Gignac now has four goals to make him the tournament’s leading scorer. Eleventh-hour comebacks Coming from behind to win is statistically relatively rare in modern football. Honduras and France, however, proved the exception to the rule on Sunday with crucial campaign-reviving wins. Both sides left it late with Honduras seeing off New Zealand with an 87th-minute winner, while France were in stoppage time when they broke South African hearts to grab all three points.

Japan’s bright young hope delivers again Kubo is undoubtedly considered the brightest star among Japan’s young brigade and the Real Madrid-contracted attacker delivered once more with a sparkling display against Mexico. Japan’s poster boy had the host nation on their way to victory against Mexico with a sweet early goal, doubling his tally after the opening-day winner against South Africa. Saudis first to be farewelled Saudi Arabia are the only team eliminated after two matchdays, although the West Asians can console themselves with spirited showings against quality opposition. Following a tough 2-1 opening defeat against Côte d'Ivoire, some dynamic attacking had the Saudis looking capable of claiming all three points against Germany but, after twice drawing level, a goal 15 minutes from full-time by Felix Uduokhai confirmed their exit.

Post-match interview gets personal Germany striker, and one of coach Stefan Kuntz's three overage selections, Max Kruse ended his post-match television interview in unexpected fashion. The Union Berlin forward took the opportunity to propose to his girlfriend, removing his kit to reveal his important message back home to her and, according to ARD Sportschau, she said yes! His intention was to reveal the message after scoring a goal, but as he is still waiting for that to happen in Tokyo, he decided to not take any more chances and to make sure his plan came to pass on Olympic soil.

Quote of the day "People should know that Egyptians never lose hope. This is a generation that never loses hope. We will analyse what went wrong and come back to win that last match." Egypt forward Ramadan Sobhi Matchday 3 fixtures Wednesday 28 July Germany-Cote d'Ivoire Miyagi Stadium, 17:00 (local time) Saudi Arabia-Brazil Saitama Stadium, 17:00 Romania-New Zealand Sapporo Dome, 17:30 Korea Republic-Honduras Yokohama International Stadium, 17:30 Australia-Egypt Miyagi Stadium, 20:00 Spain-Argentina Saitama Stadium, 20:00 South Africa-Mexico Sapporo Dome, 20:30 France-Japan International Stadium Yokohama, 20:30