Mexico and Brazil advance to the next round of the Olympic games in Men’s Soccer
After many dramatic score lines on the last day of the group stage of U-23 Men’s Soccer, only half of the Latin American countries are still in the hunt for a medal.
Sixteen teams from across the world competed in the under-23 men’s soccer competition at the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games.
In the Olympics, men’s soccer is restricted to players who are 23 or younger to preserve the FIFA World Cup as the premier international soccer tournament.
With the COVID-19 pandemic canceling the games last year, the category was raised to under-24 so that every player was eligible to participate then could still play this Summer.
Each country that qualifies for soccer at the Olympics is allowed to bring three players above the age category as designated squad reinforcements.
Most chose to not bring the high-profile names from their senior national teams because they were most likely playing in another tournament. Soccer fans have been given a Summer soccer festival with the UEFA European Championship, Copa America, Gold Cup and now the Olympics.
After the group stage portion came to an end on Wednesday, July 28, the number of countries remaining was halved, with the top two teams from each of the four groups advancing to the quarter finals.
Both North and South America had two representatives at this competition and big things were expected from them.
Mexico and Honduras qualified for the Olympic games after they both reached the final of the 2020 CONCACAF Men's Olympic Qualifying Championship in March. Mexico won the match 5-4 on penalties.
South America’s pre-Olympic tournament was played in Colombia right before the pandemic. Argentina and Brazil topped the final qualifying stage group and sealed their passage to Tokyo.
“El Tri” pulled off a shock victory against the Seleção in the soccer final of the 2012 London Olympics at Wembley Stadium.
Brazil clinched their first gold medal in the competition in front of their home fans in Rio five years ago. Defeating Germany on penalties made the final even sweeter for Brazilians, since they saw their national team lose to “Die Mannschaft” 7-1 in the semi-final of the 2014 World Cup they also hosted.
Group A was the tournament’s group of death. Mexico would face France, South Africa and host nation Japan.
South Africa, along with Saudi Arabia in Group D, was the only team to be dumped out of the games without accumulating a single point.
Two of France’s designated reinforcements know the quality Mexico possesses pretty well since they both play for Liga MX side, Tigres UANL. This was not enough for them to avoid losing to El Tri 4-1 on the opening day.
Both teams were fighting for second place in their group on the last day since they were tied with three points each. “Les Bleus” were thrashed by the host nation 4-0 and Mexico kept a clean sheet after putting three past South Africa.
Mexico’s Carlos Rodriguez will miss their quarter final encounter with South Korea on Saturday after picking up a red card on Wednesday. This further weakens the side, as they were already going to play without their starting right-back Erick Aguirre, who has an injury.
South Korea may prove to be a tricky opponent for Mexico, since they are a team who has grown into the tournament with every game they’ve played.
They lost to New Zealand in their first match 1-0, but this was the only goal South Korea conceded in the group stage. They scored 10 goals in their next two matches, defeating Honduras 6-0 on the last day to top Group B.
“Los Catrachos” finished bottom of the group and their only victory came after a 3-2 result against New Zealand in their second match.
Spain narrowly topped Group C with five points. They were criticized for bringing six players to their Olympic squad who also played for the senior side at the Euros.
“La Roja” also had the most expensive squad by far at the competition, with a value of €563 million according to Transfermarkt. Brazil came second with their team being worth €363.7 million.
A draw against Argentina on Wednesday was enough for them to advance in first place.
Argentina will feel unlucky to not reach the next round, finishing behind second-placed Egypt, who they beat 1-0 in their second match, thanks to goal difference. Both teams accumulated four points.
“La Albiceleste” might end up regretting only calling upon one overage player of the three they were allowed to have for their Olympic squad.
Brazil made their ambitions to retain their gold medal clear in their clash against 2016 finalist Germany, who they defeated 4-2.
The tournament favorite suffered a slight blunder after a scoreless draw with the Ivory Coast, but bounced back with a 3-1 win against Saudi Arabia to top Group D.
The “Seleção” will take on Egypt on Saturday, while the Ivory Coast faces Spain.
Brazilian forward Richarlison is now the tournament’s top scorer with five goals after netting a brace in his team’s victory against Saudi Arabia on Wednesday.