Gold Medal Match: Brazil 2-1 Spain
Updated: Oct 8, 2021
Malcom scored an extra-time winner as Brazil retained their title in the Gold Medal match against Spain on a sweltering night in Yokohama.
The substitute raced through on goal to slot a composed finish past Unai Simon in the 108th minute of an end to end final.
Richarlison skied a penalty before Matheus Cunha had opened the scoring for the Seleção on the stroke of half time. Mikel Oyarzabal then crashed home a superb volley in the second half to level things up.
Both sides traded blows before a brilliant game was ultimately decided by an inspired appearance off the bench from Malcom.
The game became more and more stretched as Spain threw the kitchen sink at La Canarinha in their search to find a goal. Ultimately, that search ended in vain as Brazil hung on to claim the gold medal for a successive Olympics
While many footballing nations can be said to have not taken Olympics seriously, Brazil and Spain certainly did with the likes of Pedri, Dani Alves, Asensio and Richarlison among others on show.
Unai Simon gave away a penalty just before the end of the first half after a harsh VAR decision from the referee. Richarlison failed to capitalise on this golden opportunity, stepping up to blaze his spot-kick horribly over the bar in what seemed like justice for La Roja.
The miss seemed to galvanise the Spanish, as the tide of the game turned in their favour momentarily. Matheus Cunha - the quarter-final hero against Egypt – spared Richarlison’s blushes as he finished clinically on the stroke of half time after a mishap from Cucurella. The defending champions went into the break with the advantage after a tense but exciting first-half.
In the 2nd half Spain came out on the front foot, taking the game to the Canarinha. Their urgency was clear , attacking with purpose and trying to get both Dani Olmo and star creator Pedri on the ball more.
The Barcelona youngster has played a mind-boggling 73 games this season – an absolutely astonishing landmark for a player who was 17 when the season began . He unfortunately looked more subdued today by fatigue.
The Canarinha hit back on the counter though as Spain pushed forward leaving gaps in behind. Just past the hour, Spain were back on level terms as two substitutes Soler and Bryan Gil combined effectively to set up Oyarzabal for a world-class finish on the volley.
As the clock ticked on, the game opened up more and more, showcasing some brilliant football between two very well-matched sides. Throughout the game there were some tough challenges and feisty scenes as the match constantly resparked into life. Despite Olympic Football being much maligned, the passion on show exemplified how much this match means to these players and brought a smile to my face.
La Roja nearly wrapped the game up in normal time as Bryan Gil fired a thunderbolt against the crossbar on 88 minutes which left Santos beaten and the match heading into extra-time.
Extra time is a different game – a physical and mental battle as players look to dig deep into their energy reserves with tiring muscles and lactic acid building up. This was an even tougher task when playing in the humid conditions in Japan.
Former Barcelona forward Malcom - subbed on at the beginning of extra time - was a real livewire, creating chances at will with his direct dribbling and flashing a low shot into the side netting as Brazil had a big spell of pressure. Arana and Malcom had been dovetailing nicely on the left which is where Brazil’s attacking threat and winner came from. Malcom, who was the stand out player in extra time, secured Brazil the title with his goal in the 108th minute after racing past the Spanish defence.
All in all a deserved win for Brazil as veteran Dani Alves followed Neymar’s footsteps in captaining the South American side to glory, collapsing to the turf in elation.
The win sparked wild scenes of unbridled joy amongst the Brazilians while Spain were left reflecting on what could’ve been. Attacking talent , hefty challenges and quick paced football. As a neutral I thoroughly enjoyed this game of Football between two of the finest young sides in the world. Starting before the opening ceremony even took place and finishing long after many events have concluded , Olympic Football is simply unique. Coupled with a lack of fans at Tokyo 2020, Football at the Olympics has definitely been a mixed bag at times but I come away from it overwhelmingly positive after watching some cracking games.