Tokyo Olympics: Brazil retains men’s football gold in style

Malcom produced the winner in the 108th minute of extra-time to secure back-to-back gold for Brazil, which became the fifth nation in Olympic men’s football history to achieve the feat.

Brazil footballers Paulinho, Richarlison and Antony celebrate their gold at the International Stadium Yokohama on Saturday.   -  GETTY IMAGES

The famed Brazilian proficiency in football bloomed once again at the International Stadium Yokohama where the Samba nation prevailed over Spain 2-1 in the extra-time in the men’s football final to retain the gold it had won at home in Rio in 2016.

Matheus Cunha opened the lead for Brazil before Mikel Oyarazabal fetched the equaliser for Spain in the regulation time that ended 1-1.

Malcom produced the winner in the 108th minute of extra-time to secure back-to-back gold for Brazil, which became the fifth nation in Olympic men’s football history to achieve the feat.

Yokohama also became a lucky venue for Brazil, relieving the memories of its FIFA World Cup triumph in 2002.

Brazil was the more enterprising side at the start and started probing the Spanish half with more frequency. Richarlison, the claimant for the top scorer’s spot in the tournament, was causing trouble for the Spanish defence at regular intervals. Despite creating chances Brazil’s finishing left much to be desired.

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The game opened up for Brazil in the 34th minute when Spanish goalkeeper Unai Simon put a harsh challenge on the Brazilian forward Matheus Cunha following a free-kick. Referee Chris Beath consulted VAR and after seeing the replays in the monitor awarded a penalty to Brazil. But Richarlison shot over from the spot to give Spain a reprieve.

Brazil was finally rewarded for its efforts towards the stoppage time when Claudinho whipped across a cross that was helped along by captain Dani Alves for Cunha, who brought down the looping ball and nicely placed it in the bottom corner of the net.

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Brazil tried to build on the lead after the break and almost got it in the 54th minute. Dani Alves located Cunha again with a flick and the latter set up Richarlison inside the Spain box. The Brazilian forward produced a powerful shot but the ball deflected off Simon, hit the underside of the crosspiece and bounced away.

Spain found the equaliser in the 61st minute when its substitute Carlos Soler set a fantastic cross from the right across to the far end of the Brazilian box. Mikel Oyarazabal arrived from the left flank to produce a sliding volley that gave Brazilian goalkeeper Santos no chance to save. Spain had the chance to secure the win in the 88th minute but the crosspiece came in the way of substitute Brian Gil's nice attempt.

Brazil regained the momentum in the extra time where it showed the right energy to put Spain on the back foot. Spain managed to put a good defence initially but finally gave in to the grit and speed of substitute Malcom, who collected a diagonal pass from Antony, beat his marker Douglas Luiz and unleashed a powerful grounder that found the net after hitting the leg of Unai Simon.

The 108th-minute goal was enough to give Brazil the victory it deserved.

The result:

Men’s football final: Brazil 2 (Matheus Cunha 45+2, Malcom 108) bt Spain 1 (Mikel Oyarazabal 61) in extra-time.

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