| Event type

Football, Men

Date22 July – 7 August 2021
LocationInternational Stadium Yokohama, Yokohama, Japan / Kashima Stadium, Kashima, Ibaraki Prefecture, Japan / Miyagi Stadium, Rifu, Miyagi Prefecture, Japan / Saitama Stadium 2002, Saitama, Saitama Prefecture, Japan / Sapporo Dome, Sapporo, Hokkaido, Japan / Tokyo Stadium, Tokyo, Japan
Participants296 from 16 countries
FormatRound-robin pools advance teams to single-elimination tournament of eight teams.

Having won their first Olympic gold medal on home soil in 2016, Brazil were hoping to make it back-to-back golds in Tokyo and become the first team since Argentina in 2008 to retain the men’s Olympic title. Despite Argentina being on a high after their senior team beat Brazil 1-0 in the Maracanã Stadium, to win their first Copa América since 1993, it was the Brazilians who were favourites to capture the title with so many big names in their squad including Malcom, Matheus Cunha, Paulinho, the talented attacking midfielder Claudinho, the 2020 Brazilian Player of the Year Awardee, and the 38-year-old former Barcelona player, Dani Alves, who was the winner of three UEFA Champions’ League medals and was the oldest player in the 2020 Olympic tournament. Add to that list the English Premier League players Douglas Luiz (Aston Villa), Gabriel Martinelli (Arsenal) and Richarlison (Everton), and was obvious Brazil had a team that would take some beating.

Spain was regarded as the best of the European nations, and were hoping to end their 21-year drought without an Olympic medal. They qualified for Tokyo 2020 after winning the 2019 UEFA European Under-21 Championship in Italy. Experienced players like Dani Ceballos, Mikel Merino, and Marco Asensio, were joined by six members of their Euro 2021 squad who headed to Tokyo two weeks after reaching the semi-final at Wembley. The six were Mikel Oyarzabal, Unai Simon. Pau Torres, Eric García, Dani Olmo, and Barcelona’s 18-year-old Pedri González, who became the youngest Spanish player to appear in the European Championships finals in 2021 when he started against Sweden aged 18 years and 201 days.

After being runners-up to Spain in the 2019 UEFA European Under-21 Championship, Germany were also fancied, while another European team in with a chance was the young French squad, with five members of their 22-man squad under the age of 20, including the tournament’s youngest player, Ismael Doukoure of Valenciennes, who was 18 on the day after the Tokyo opening ceremony. If any team was capable of springing at surprise in Tokyo it was the Australian “Olyroos”. They were led by Graham Arnold, who was no stranger to the Olympics as he was a player at Seoul in 1988, assistant coach at Athens in 2004, and head coach at Beijing four years later, which was the last time Australia qualified.

The opening day of the men’s tournament saw Spain and Egypt get the competition under way, but the most eagerly awaited match of the day was that between the 2016 champions Brazil and beaten finalists Germany. Remarkably, Brazil raced to a 3-0 lead within half-an-hour, thanks to a hat-trick from Everton’s Richarlison. Brazil missed a penalty on the stroke of half-time before letting Germany back into the game with two second-half goals, but the defending champions scored a late goal to win 4-2.

The surprise of the opening day saw Thomas Deng lead Australia to a 2-0 win over the fancied Argentinians. Deng was born in Kenya and, when he was six, his family was granted refugee status in Australia to escape the crisis in Sudan. German captain Maximilian Arnold, Francisco Ortega (Argentina), and Aboubacar Doumbia (Ivory Coast) all received their marching orders on the opening day of the men’s tournament.

After the second round of group matches only the hosts Japan had maximum points while South Africa and Saudi Arabia were pointless. The Saudis came close to a shock, however, when they came from 2-0 behind to Germany to draw level before losing 3-2. Germany had a player dismissed for the second match in succession when Amos Pieper received his marching orders in the 66th minute. Brazil were also down to 10 men when Douglas Luiz was sent off after 13 minutes, but they managed to hold out for a goalless draw against Ivory Coast, who had Manchester United youngster Amad Diallo in their midfield. Spain and France both left it late to secure wins, France doing so in the 82nd minute after coming from behind three times to beat South Africa 4-3.

The final round of group matches saw Brazil qualify for the last eight with ease thanks to a star performance and two more goals from Richarlison in a 3-1 win over Saudi Arabia. This group also provided a shock with Germany making an exit after being held to a 1-1 draw by the Ivory Coast, and a third-place finish meant they were eliminated. South Korea won their final game 6-0 against Honduras with the help of three penalties and the other team to qualify in from this group was New Zealand.

The only team to reach the last eight with a 100% record was Japan, who rounded off their group fixtures with a 4-0 win over 10-man France. One of their goals was scored by Real Madrid’s Takefusa Kubo, who had netted in each of Japan’s first three games, as he became the first Japanese player to score in three consecutive games at the Olympics. France followed Germany in exiting the competition at the group stage. Former champions Argentina were also eliminated after a 1-1 draw with Spain and lost out on second place to Egypt on goal difference. Of the eight teams that made up the quarter-finals only Brazil, Mexico and Spain had won the title before.

Spain kicked off the quarter-finals in dramatic fashion the Ivory Coast. They were level at 1-1 until Max Gradel scored in the 91st minute for a seemingly victory for the Africans, but two minutes later Rafa Mir levelled for Spain a minute after coming on as a substitute, to take the game to extra time. Mikel Oyarzabal scored from the penalty spot after 98 minutes before Mir added two more goals deep into the extra period as Spain ran out 5-2 winners and set up a semi-final meeting with Japan, who beat New Zealand 4-3 on penalties after a goalless 120 minutes of play.

Egypt reached the last eight, despite being without the experience of Liverpool’s Mo Salah, and put up a good showing in their quarter-final match against Brazil, before succumbing to a solitary goal in the 37th minute from Matheus Cunha of Bundesliga side Hertha Berlin. Brazil, winners in 2016, set up a semi-final meeting with the 2012 winners Mexico, who ran riot in their quarter-final, beating South Korea 6-3.

Mexico’s luck ran out in their semi-final in a re-run of the 2012 final, when Brazil won 4-1 on penalties after a goalless 120 minutes. Brazil came close to snatching victory in the 82nd minute when a Richarlison header hit a post. The other semi-final saw Japan in the last four for the second time since 2012, while Spain were in their third semi-final, and first since 2000. The Spaniards had most of the play and like the first semi, it also went to extra time and the game was not resolved until five minutes from the end of the added period when Mallorcan-born Asensio of Real Madrid scored the winning goal.

The match for the bronze medal was a repeat of the 2012 London Olympic semi-final. Mexico beat Japan 3-1 that day, and that was the repeat outcome in Tokyo as the Japanese were denied the chance of adding to their solitary men’s medal, a bronze won at Mexico in 1968. Victory for Mexico gave them only their second men’s Olympic medal after the gold they won in 2012.

The two finalists were hoping to add to the solitary gold medal each had won previously, Brazil in 2016 and Spain back on home soil in 1992. The game was played in the Yokohama International Stadium, at a fast pace, and with both sides looking capable of winning but, at the same time, with neither wanting to lose, it was always going to be close contest.

The game came to life towards the end of the second half when Brazil were awarded a 38th penalty after a lengthy VAR review, but Richarlison put the spot kick high over the cross bar. Then, in the third extra minute at the end of the first half, Cunha put Brazil 1-0 ahead. A terrific volleyed goal from Real Sociedad’s Mikel Oyarzabal in the 61st minute put the teams level. Both sides went for a winning goal in regulation time, and Spain hit the bar twice in the last five minutes but it ended 1-1, and for their third game in succession, Spain were playing extra time.

The deadlock was broken in the 108th minute when Antony released a long cross-field ball to the substitute Malcom, who ran onto it and beat the advancing Spanish goalkeeper Simon to put Brazil back in front. Instead of sitting back on their lead, Brazil went for a third goal while the Spaniard’s went in search of the equaliser but there was no further score and Brazil, led by 38-year-old Dani Alves, became the fifth country, and the first since Argentina in 2008, to win back-to-back men’s finals.

5Republic of KoreaKOR
6New ZealandNZL
7Côte d'IvoireCIV
15Kingdom of Saudi ArabiaKSA
16South AfricaRSA

Preliminary Round

Date22 – 28 July 2021

Group A

4South AfricaRSA00303-8
Match #122 Jul 17:00MexicoMEX4 – 1FranceFRA
Match #222 Jul 20:00JapanJPN1 – 0South AfricaRSA
Match #325 Jul 17:00FranceFRA4 – 3South AfricaRSA
Match #425 Jul 20:00JapanJPN2 – 1MexicoMEX
Match #528 Jul 20:30JapanJPN4 – 0FranceFRA
Match #628 Jul 20:30MexicoMEX3 – 0South AfricaRSA

Group B

1Republic of KoreaKOR201610-1
2New ZealandNZL11143-3
Match #122 Jul 17:00New ZealandNZL1 – 0Republic of KoreaKOR
Match #222 Jul 20:00RomaniaROU1 – 0HondurasHON
Match #325 Jul 17:00HondurasHON3 – 2New ZealandNZL
Match #425 Jul 20:00Republic of KoreaKOR4 – 0RomaniaROU
Match #528 Jul 17:30Republic of KoreaKOR6 – 0HondurasHON
Match #628 Jul 17:30New ZealandNZL0 – 0RomaniaROU

Group C

Match #122 Jul 16:30EgyptEGY0 – 0SpainESP
Match #222 Jul 19:30AustraliaAUS2 – 0ArgentinaARG
Match #325 Jul 16:30ArgentinaARG1 – 0EgyptEGY
Match #425 Jul 19:30SpainESP1 – 0AustraliaAUS
Match #528 Jul 20:00EgyptEGY2 – 0AustraliaAUS
Match #628 Jul 20:00ArgentinaARG1 – 1SpainESP

Group D

2Côte d'IvoireCIV12053-2
4Kingdom of Saudi ArabiaKSA00304-8
Match #122 Jul 17:30Côte d'IvoireCIV2 – 1Kingdom of Saudi ArabiaKSA
Match #222 Jul 20:30BrazilBRA4 – 2GermanyGER
Match #325 Jul 17:30BrazilBRA0 – 0Côte d'IvoireCIV
Match #425 Jul 20:30GermanyGER3 – 2Kingdom of Saudi ArabiaKSA
Match #528 Jul 17:00Côte d'IvoireCIV1 – 1GermanyGER
Match #628 Jul 17:00BrazilBRA3 – 1Kingdom of Saudi ArabiaKSA


Date31 July 2021 — 17:00
FormatWinners of each match advanced to semi-finals.
Match #131 Jul 17:00SpainESP5 – 2Côte d'IvoireCIV
Match #231 Jul 18:00JapanJPN0 – 0New ZealandNZL
Match #331 Jul 19:00BrazilBRA1 – 0EgyptEGY
Match #431 Jul 20:00MexicoMEX6 – 3Republic of KoreaKOR


Date3 August 2021 — 17:00
FormatWinners of each match advanced to final round.
Match #103 Aug 17:00BrazilBRA0 – 0MexicoMEX
Match #203 Aug 20:00SpainESP1 – 0JapanJPNAET

Final Round

Date6 – 7 August 2021
FormatMedal round.
Match 1/207 Aug 20:30BrazilBRA2 – 1SpainESP
Match 3/406 Aug 18:00MexicoMEX3 – 1JapanJPN