Spain, Brazil advance to semifinals of Olympic men’s soccer

SAITAMA, Japan (AP) — Mikel Oyarzabal helped Spain into a second semifinal in a month. Brazil remains on track for a quick return to another final.

With youthful squads, Olympic men’s soccer lacks the status of the European Championship or Copa America. The Tokyo Games still offer the chance for the countries to collect trophies this year.

The Spanish were taken by Ivory Coast to extra time before winning 5-2 on Saturday with the go-ahead goal scored from a penalty by Oyarzabal, who also netted the winning spotkick in a shootout in the Euro 2020 quarterfinals. The continental semifinal was lost to Italy. Now a more youthful Spain squad will be hoping to find a way past Japan, which was taken to penalties by New Zealand before winning the shootout 4-2.

The gold medalist on home soil in 2016, Brazil continued its title defense with a 1-0 victory over Egypt secured by Matheus Cunha’s low strike in the 37th minute.

The goal was set up by Richarlison, who has been allowed by Premier League club Everton to do double-duty in the offseason, having already been in the side that lost to Argentina in the Copa America final three weeks ago. Egypt wasn’t allowed to bring players from England’s top league like Brazil — particularly Liverpool striker Mohamed Salah as one of the three players over the age of 24 permitted in the men’s competition.

For Brazil, standing in the way of reaching another final on Tuesday is Mexico, which ousted South Korea 6-3 with a pair of goals from Henry Martín.

The favorite for the title will be Spain given the high calibre squad chasing its first Olympic soccer gold since 1992. This is the furthest it has reached in the competition since losing the final in 2000 to Cameroon.

The Spanish came close to being eliminated after Oyarzabal missed a chance to put them ahead just before Max-Alain Gradel put Ivory Coast in front in the first minute of stoppage time.

But Rafa Mir salvaged an equalizer for the Spanish two minutes later, having only just come off the bench. In extra time, Eric Bailly’s handball won the penalty that Oyarzabal converted. And it was a far smoother conclusion thanks to two more goals from Mir to complete a hat trick for the Wolverhampton forward.

It was far nervier for Japan, which had to rely on goalkeeper Kosei Tane saving a penalty from Liberato Cacace and seeing Clayton Lewis miss the target before the shootout winner from captain Maya Yoshida.


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