On a day on which everything was up for grabs, eight teams seized the moment and grasped a spot in the Men’s Olympic Football Tournament Tokyo 2020 quarter-finals. Some, such as six-goal Korea Republic, unblemished Japan and unbeaten Brazil, cruised through in style, while others endured nervy moments before prolonging their stay.
New Zealand, for example, eked out a goalless draw against Romania that secured a historic last-eight berth – the first at world level for any men’s team from the country, at any age level. Côte d’Ivoire edged out Germany, meanwhile, and Egypt – without a goal before today – rose from the bottom of Group C to leapfrog both Australia and Argentina.
Japan arrived at this stage as the only team yet to drop a point, and needing just a point to be sure of qualifying. But there was no sense of playing it safe as they swept aside France with a devastating display of attacking football that resulted in their biggest-ever win in this competition. Mexico, meanwhile, bounced back from their defeat to the hosts with an equally accomplished victory to earn a last-eight date with Korea Republic.
With all four teams starting today’s action on three points, a tight, nervy conclusion was anticipated. One game – Romania’s goalless draw with New Zealand that sent the latter through on goal difference – fit that script. The other deviated from it wildly, with Korea Republic uninhibited and hugely impressive in a 6-0 demolition of Honduras in which Hwang Uijo grabbed a hat-trick.
Two points adrift of both Australia and Argentina, Egypt had it all to do going into today’s matches. Spain, on the other hand, merely had to protect their position at the section’s summit. Both got the job done with results that were ultimately no more than either deserved, with the Pharaohs outfoxing the Olyroos and Spain enjoying largely the better of a drab 1-1 draw with Argentina.
The only one of the 16 teams officially eliminated before the start of play, Saudi Arabia belied that status with a battling performance against the holders, losing out only to a late brace from the in-form Richarlison. Germany, for their part, had been playing catch-up ever since that opening-match defeat to the Brazilians and ultimately fell just short, with a point enough to send their Ivorian opponents through to a last-eight meeting with Spain.
Saturday 31 July (all times local)
Spain-Côte d’Ivoire Miyagi Stadium, 17:00
Japan-New Zealand Kashima Stadium, 18:00
Brazil-Egypt Saitama Stadium, 19:00
Korea Republic-Mexico Yokohama International Stadium, 20:00