Friday 06 August 2021, 18:19

Brazil-Spain: A dream final too close to call

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  • Brazil and Spain seeking second gold medals

  • Tight contest expected throughout

  • Clash of styles adds to the occasion

When Brazil and Spain face off on Saturday evening in Yokohama, which was the venue for the Final of the FIFA World Cup™ back in 2002, two footballing heavyweights will be looking for their second Men’s Olympic Football Tournament titles.

Brazil travelled to Japan as defending champions, having defeated Germany on penalties in the final in Rio de Janeiro five years ago, while Spain also won on home soil in 1992, edging past Poland 3-2 in Barcelona, which was also the last time that a European country won gold in this event.

Here in Japan, both teams have lived up to their billing and made it through to the final, thanks in no small part to the big names selected for their squads. The two countries won their respective groups and have proven very solid at the back, as well as having incredible forwards capable of turning a game on its head.

The Match

Saturday 7 August

Brazil–Spain International Stadium Yokohama, 20:30 local time

Key Points

Which playing style will win through? “This is the most important tournament of my career. This would have been my ideal final as I’ve not yet played against Brazil, and it’s also the match-up that most people would have chosen,“ said Spain coach Luis de la Fuente. “The players are motivated – they’ve been through a lot and put so much into it. I think that I’m pretty sure of my starting line-up, but all the players in the squad are good. Brazil are not as focused on possession as we are. They’re a direct team with quick attacks and counter-attacks. We’ll see which playing style wins through.”

Luis de la Fuente, Head Coach of Team Spain looks on prior to the Men's Quarter Final match between Spain and Cote d'Ivoire

Thrills up front or a battle of the defensive ranks? The attackers on either side are the ones who will get the fans’ pulses racing as they wait for the next Richarlison dribble, Antony elastico or unbelievable strike from Mikel Oyarzabal or Marco Asensio… On the other hand, we could get a final that is an incredibly tight contest with goals at a premium. The semi-finals may point to what we can expect: both matches were goalless and went to extra time, with Brazil kept off the scoresheet for the full 120 minutes and forced to go via penalties – although that did mean that they have made it through the knock-out stages without conceding a goal. Spain have been equally parsimonious throughout the tournament, something that central defender Eric Garcia spoke to about after the semi-final.

A match for the purists “We’re ready to go out and win Olympic gold,” said Brazil midfielder Bruno Guimaraes. “The core of the team has been playing together since 2019 and, for me, everything here is a dream come true. Spain have the more experienced players and the ones who have already played in a EURO. It’ll be a good match for lovers of the beautiful game. We’ve got players in our team though with experience of playing in Europe and from what we hear, we weren’t the only ones looking ahead to this match – they were too.“

Bruno Guimaraes #8 of Team Brazil is challenged by Alexis Vega #11 of Team Mexico

A key injury doubt Matheus Cunha’s two goals and one assist have made him one of the stand-out players in the Brazilian attack at these Games, but a thigh injury kept him out of the semi-final against Mexico – no doubt a niggle that the 22-year-old picked up during the quarter-final clash with Egypt when he scored the only goal of the game. “We’re hoping he’ll be fit and able to play in the final. He’s the top scorer in our Olympic team since the beginning of qualifiers, and he can play as either a centre forward or a false nine,” Guimaraes explained. Paulinho came in for Cunha against Mexico, while Reinier, Malcom and Gabriel Martinelli would also be options to replace him.

Brazil setting further Olympic records When the final kicks off tomorrow, Brazil will be setting a new Olympic record with their fifth appearance in the gold medal match. Only once have they won the title however, in 2016, while in 2012 (2-1 versus Mexico), 1988 (2-1 a.e.t. versus USSR) and 1984 (2-0 versus France), they had to be content with silver. Spain have qualified for the gold medal match for the third time, having lost on penalties to Cameroon in 2000, eight years after their Barcelona triumph. Neither team will set an outright record for gold medals as Hungary currently lead the way with three.

The stat

With Brazil taking part in the gold medal match, it means they are guaranteed to take home a medal for the fourth Games in a row, after bronze in 2008, silver in 2012 and gold in 2016.