France, Spain look for key wins in Men’s Football tournament

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2020 Summer Olympic Games

23 July – 8 August 2021

Tokyo, Japan

European heavyweights France and Spain will chase key wins in the Men’s Football tournament at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games this week, with Matchday 2 and 3 fixtures set to be staged on July 25 and 28 respectively.

France, who open their Group A campaign against Mexico on July 22, will go on to face South Africa and Japan in Saitama and Yokohama respectively. Les Bleus have included 35-year-old Andre-Pierre Gignac as one of their overage players, with the veteran looking forward to representing his country at the Games.

“I’m ready for whatever [at the Olympic Games]. It’s going to be something nice [to face Mexico]. Since I arrived, they’ve received me incredible,” explained Gignac, who plays his club football in Mexico with Tigres UANL.

Yet Japan especially will pose a tough test for France, with the hosts targeting a first medal in Men’s Football. Manager Hajime Moriyasu has put together a well-drilled side which will look to make the most of home advantage – albeit without any fans allowed inside the stadiums.

“I want to make sure the players can fully express themselves within the team concept, connecting with each other and showing strong organization,” said Moriyasu. “I want to create an environment that allows them to work together with a sense of unity. If they apply themselves to the task in front of them, the results will follow.”

Group B, featuring New Zealand, South Korea, Romania and Honduras looks to be wide open, while Group C is a much tougher proposition – though it is widely expected that the key game will be the meeting of Spain and Argentina in Saitama on July 28.

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Spain manager Luis de la Fuente, who has included Euro 2020 star Pedri in his squad, says “there’s no reason to not fight for the gold medal”, but Argentina are two-time Olympic champions (2004 and 2008) and will be amongst the favourites at the tournament.

In Group D, Brazil and Germany are favoured to finish ahead of Ivory Coast and Saudi Arabia. Brazil are the defending Olympic champions after their emotional triumph on home soil in 2016 and claiming Gold again is a clear priority, given that they have included the likes of Richarlison, Paulinho, Douglas Luiz and veteran Dani Alves in their squad.

“[Alves] is a great example for this generation of players that we have,” said Brazil coach Andre Jardine. “And, curiously, he has never competed in the Olympic games, so we think it is the perfect marriage. He is going to be an example to the squad and a leader on the pitch. And if we think of the player with excitement to become a champion…he has a rich history of titles.”

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Published: 07/23/2021