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Hosts Japan took on Spain in the second semi-final of the men’s football at Tokyo Olympics. With Brazil through to the final after winning against Mexico, this was the match to decide who would face the defending champions.

Spain were bossing the ball in the opening exchanges, mostly camped near Japan’s penalty box. The Blue Samurai were having to rely on counter attacks and turnover of possession to assert themselves.



Merino had a half chance but could not direct his header on target from a tight angle. The game was mostly being played in the centre of the field, involving large spells of patient passing. Japan were starting to get a bit more threatening past the half hour mark forcing Spain to hurry things up a little. Rafa Mir was set on through on goal but shot straight at the goalkeeper as the first half came to a close.



The second half started with Japan looking to make quick inroads which ended up in nothing. Spain slowly grew back into the game but the hosts had the first shot of the half. Kubo brought down a ball over the top brilliantly before laying it off to Hayashi who blasted over.

La Roja were given a penalty in the 56th minute after Yoshida was adjudged to have fouled Merino. However, after being instructed by VAR to look for himself, the referee overturned his initial decision and rescinded the yellow card shown to the Japanese captain for he had gotten the ball first.



Japan were sitting deep and defending more with the game entering the final 15 minutes of normal time. Spain were hogging possession and looking to be more positive going forward. The first shot on target for Japan came in the 79th minute with Kubo testing Unai Simon at his near post. Spain were getting more chances with the game nearing its end. A corner from Soler caused havoc inside the box before Mir’s shot was kept out at his near post by Tani.



Oyarazabal had a tame effort saved comfortably by Tani as the game got more and more stretched. However, the two teams could not be separated till the final whistle and the match moved on to extra-time.

The first period of extra time started slowly with Spain looking to keep the ball. They were attacking more with Japan having to defend valiantly at times. At the other end, the Blue Samurai were a constant threat on the counter having brought on fresher legs in attack. There were to be no goals in the 15 minutes with penalties on the horizon.



Japan were putting Spain on the back foot with two quick fire chances needing some valiant rearguard action to keep the scores level. Vallejo had to throw his body at the ball and it looked like they were really struggling to get forward. Just when it seemed like Spain were running out of ideas, Oyarazabal tiptoed his way into the box before passing it to Asensio. The Real Madrid winger brought it on his left foot before curling a wonderful strike past a diving Tani to finally break the deadlock.



There was to be no more goals with Japan failing to get by the resilient Spanish defending right at the death. The hosts were out and Spain won a hard fought battle on the night.

Here are the three key takeaways from the match:



The hosts knew they will not be dominating possession and did the next best thing. Japan were defending expertly, throwing their bodies in front of shots while keeping Spain’s array of attackers at bay. La Roja were getting increasingly frustrated with Yoshida anchoring a very well-organized back-line. Sakai on the right was a nightmare to get past for Cucurella and Japan’s defenders were winning almost all the headers inside the penalty box.


With two of their over-age players being defenders, it was no surprise that Spain had such trouble getting a goal. However, all of their resilience was finally broken in the 115th minute with Asensio’s wonderful curler that sealed the Blue Samurai’s fate. They had a few chances at the end but no way past the Spanish defence.



Spain were on top for major portions of the game but were finding it difficult to break down the Japanese defence. Time and again, a cross fell to an opponent or they were profligate with some good chances. At the back, they needed to be watchful on a few occasions with Japan looking to steal  a goal. Much like their Euro 2020 campaign, they had to bide their time and remain patient to score on the night.



Oyarazabal, who was fantastic all night and had had a few shots himself, eventually found Asensio with the much-maligned attacker producing a moment of real quality. The defence were able to keep a barrage of late attacks at bay to make the final.



With Brazil needing penalties to get past Mexico and Spain needing a late, late winner, the final clash to determine the gold medal will likely be a defensive slugfest. Both teams like to keep a hold of the ball and attack when the chances arise which could make for a very interesting watch. Spain know they have to be much better than they were today if they are to beat the defending champions and take the first position.

Ratul Ghosh
His name means Red and a fan of devilish food, which equals to his favourite team being Manchester United. Can be found sleeping or in front of the TV otherwise. Hates waking up early but loves staying up late for football.

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