Spain’s Olympic men’s soccer campaign yesterday got off to a rocky start after they lost two players to injury in a goalless draw with Egypt, while Mexico stunned France 4-1 as the group stage began.
Spain, the last European men’s team to claim gold in 1992, arrived in Japan with a number of players from the senior team who reached the UEFA Euro 2020 semi-finals this month.
However, despite the wealth of options on the pitch, Spain failed to take their opportunities in front of goal against a dogged Egypt defense in their Group C match at the Sapporo Dome.
Dani Ceballos hit the post on the half-hour mark before the Real Madrid playmaker joined fullback Oscar Mingueza on the sidelines due to injuries at the end of first half.
Ceballos hobbled off following a heavy tackle from Egypt forward Taher Mohamed, while Barcelona’s Mingueza pulled up with what appeared to be a thigh injury.
In the other Group C match last night, Australia defeated Argentina 2-0.
Unlike the women’s tournament featuring all the senior players, the men’s teams are usually restricted to under-23 sides, with three over-age players allowed per team.
With the Tokyo Olympic Games pushed back by a year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the age limit was tweaked to under-24.
Having won the CONCACAF qualifying tournament, Mexico justified their dark-horse status with a convincing win over France in Group A, courtesy of second-half goals from Alexis Vega, Sebastian Cordova, Uriel Antuna and Erick Aguirre.
Also at the Tokyo Stadium, hosts Japan downed South Africa 1-0 in Group A.
In Group B, Burnley striker Chris Wood fired a late goal as New Zealand beat South Korea 1-0 at the Ibaraki Kashima Stadium — earning the Pacific island nation their first win in Olympic men’s soccer.
Later in Kashima, Romania beat Honduras 1-0 in Group B.
In Group D, Ivory Coast defeated Saudi Arabia 2-1 at the International Stadium Yokohama, while the final match of the night saw Brazil beat Germany 4-2.
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