TOKYO: France’s Olympic men’s football campaign got off to a dreadful start when they were thrashed 4-1 by Mexico while Argentina suffered a shock 2-0 loss to Australia as the group stage kicked off on Thursday.
Brazil striker Richarlison scored the first hat-trick of the men’s tournament as the defending champions held off a late rally from Germany in a 4-2 win at Yokohama’s International Stadium.
Hosts Japan made a winning start courtesy of a late strike from midfielder Takefusa Kubo in a 1-0 victory over South Africa, who were dealing with Covid-19 cases on the eve of the Group ‘A’ match.
It was a day to forget for Sylvain Ripoll’s France who collapsed in the second half when Alexis Vega, Sebastian Cordova, Uriel Antuna and Erick Aguirre netted for Mexico at the Tokyo Stadium.
France, chasing a first Olympic medal since winning gold in 1984, now face a daunting task to qualify from Group ‘A’ ahead of games against South Africa and hosts Japan.
In their first Olympic campaign since Beijing 2008, Australia took a surprise lead against twice gold medallists Argentina inside 14 minutes when winger Lachlan Wales scored from close range.
Argentina’s problems were compounded late in the first half when left back Francisco Ortega was sent off after two quickfire yellow cards.
The South American side never quite recovered from the setback, as substitute Marco Tilio added a second for the Olyroos in the 80th minute to seal a memorable win.
Australia are top of Group ‘C’ ahead Egypt and Spain, who drew 0-0 in the other game in Sapporo.
Brazil, who won gold for the first time when inspired by Neymar on home soil five years ago in Rio, downed Germany in a dramatic match which saw forward Richarlison net a first-half hat-trick.
The Everton man scored three times inside the first half an hour, but Matheus Cunha missed a penalty and Germany then threatened an unlikely second-half comeback. Bayer Leverkusen’s Nadiem Amiri pulled one back before the hour mark, and although Maximilian Arnold was sent off shortly afterwards, substitute Ragnar Ache cut the deficit to one goal with seven minutes of the 90 left.
But it was another Leverkusen player, Paulinho, who came off the bench and put the match to bed for Brazil in the fourth minute of stoppage time.
It gave Brazil the early lead in Group ‘D’ over Ivory Coast, who beat Saudi Arabia earlier in the same stadium with a 2-1 victory clinched by AC Milan midfielder Franck Kessie.
New Zealand made a successful start in Group ‘B’ as Burnley striker Chris Wood secured a 1-0 victory over South Korea with his 72nd-minute winner at the Ibaraki Kashima Stadium where a few hundred fans were permitted because it is just outside Tokyo and not in the same state of emergency as the capital.
An own goal saw Romania edge out Honduras 1-0 in the group’s other game
The women’s competition began on Wednesday with the highly-ranked US upset by Sweden.
Published in Dawn, July 24th, 2021