Spain reached the semi-finals of the men’s soccer tournament at the Tokyo Olympics after surviving an all-powerful scare against Ivory Coast.
Manchester United defender Eric Bailly was a surprising top scorer, but Dani Olmo equalized before half-time at Miyagi Stadium.
Spain were the dominant force on the ball without finding a breakthrough, and it looked like they were fixing a shocking exit in the quarter-finals when Max Gradel’s deflected shot put Cote d’Ivoire ahead in injury time.
Incredibly, substitute Rafa Mir forced extra time two minutes later, scoring just 58 seconds after coming off the bench.
Spain finally took the lead when Oyarzabal took home from the spot after Bailly was penalized for hand ball after a lengthy VAR review.
Mir completed his hat-trick with two goals in the final three minutes to secure a 5-2 win and send Spain to the semi-finals.
– OptaJose (@OptaJose) July 31, 2021
JAPAN STILL DREAMING
Spain will now meet Japan after the hosts beat New Zealand in Kashima.
There was little to divide the teams in 120 minutes, Japan beat their opponents 21 to eight but couldn’t find a breakthrough.
On the other hand, Captain Maya Yoshida was the inspiration, posting the highest figures for duel success rate (80 percent), aerial success rate (71.4 percent) and blocks (three) of any starting player.
Fittingly, it was Yoshida who turned the final penalty after Liberato Cacace and Clayton Lewis failed to score, giving Japan a 4-2 win on penalties.
MEXICO WINS THE CLASSIC TO MAKE BRAZIL CLASH
Brazil’s quest to defend their 2016 home gold medal will continue in a semi-final against Mexico.
A lone goal from Matheus Cunha resolved the quarter-final match against Egypt in Saitama.
If that meeting was cautious, the showdown between Mexico and South Korea was anything but in Yokohama.
Mexico led 3-1 at half-time thanks to goals from Henry Martin, Luis Romo and Sebastian Cordova, with Lee Dong-gyeong grabbing a lifeline.
A frantic fight continued after the break with Lee scoring the 3-2 only for Martin and Cordova scoring their second goal and stretching Mexico’s lead.
Substitute Eduardo Aguirre scored his sixth goal six minutes from time, with Hwang Ui-jo scoring a consolation in the recovery.