Fans couldn’t possibly ask for a better gold medal game in Olympic men’s soccer. Spain will take on defending champions Brazil as they both look for their second Olympic gold medals.
Spain and Brazil were the two pre-tournament favorites and both sides have turned out to be as good as advertised. However, the road to the final wasn’t easy for either country.
This should be a relatively even match but Brazil is a slight favorite to win in 90 minutes at +170 to Spain’s +200, while a draw is listed at +185. Brazil has -135 odds to win the gold while Spain has +105 Olympic Games odds.
- Game: Brazil vs Spain
- Date/Time: Saturday, 7:30 a.m. ET
- Location: International Stadium, Yokohama, Japan
Back-to-Back for Brazil?
Forward Richarlison started the tournament in incredible form. He had an opening-game hat trick vs Germany and a two-goal performance vs Saudi Arabia in the Group Stage finale. In the knockout stage, he hasn’t been able to find the net, but hit the post in the semifinals vs Mexico.
In fact, in two knockout stage games, Brazil has scored just one goal. Matheus Cunha fired Brazil past Egypt in the quarterfinals in a 1-0 win. After a scoreless draw in the semifinals, it took penalties to defeat a competitive Mexico side.
Barcelona legend and 38-year-old captain Dani Alves set the tone by converting Brazil’s first penalty. One of Brazil’s other overage players, Santos, saved Mexico’s first penalty. The experience was key, as Brazil converted all of its penalties and qualified for its second consecutive Olympic gold medal game.
Brazil is typically known for its attacking flair, but its defense has been surprising in the tournament. The Brazilians have only conceded three goals in five games and have posted two consecutive shutouts.
Spain’s Never-Say-Die Resilience
Outside of Richarlison and Douglas Luiz, Brazil’s squad lacks players who are current national team regulars.
Spain’s U-23 roster is full of high-level players who have played on the biggest stages. Spain’s starting XI consists of six players who played in the Euros. Spain’s senior team has started a youth movement, as all of the six players in the penalty kick loss to Italy in the Euro 2020 semifinals.
However, it was an over-age player that wasn’t selected for the Euros who was the hero in the Olympic semifinals. After a scoreless draw with Japan through 90 minutes and one-half of extra time, Marco Asensio came through in the clutch.
The Real Madrid winger curled in a beautiful effort with his preferred left foot to send Spain to its first Olympic final since falling to Cameroon in 2000.
In the Group Stage, Spain had managed to score just two goals in a slow start. That quickly changed in the quarterfinals. An underrated Ivory Coast team nearly beat Spain but Rafa Mir scored the equalizer to tie the game at 2-2 and send it into extra time.
Spain exploded offensively for three goals in extra time as Mir finished a hat trick as a substitute. This is a resilient team that finds ways to win despite drawing four of its five games after 90 minutes.
Spain is coming up on 30 years since it won gold at Barcelona ’92 and has a great chance to add to its extensive trophy case.
On paper, Spain is a more talented team. Midfielder Pedri won Young Player of the Euros and broke records, while Mikel Oyarzabal and Dani Olmo are attacking menaces.
Goalkeeper Unai Simon played in two consecutive penalty shootouts in the Euros and was the hero vs Switzerland in the quarterfinals.
Brazil has promising young attackers in Antony, Gabriel Martinelli, and Cunha along with a great leader in Alves. However, Cunha missed the semifinals with an injury and may be out for the final.
I worry that Brazil is too reliant on Richarlison and Cunha, who have scored seven of eight Brazilian goals in the tournament.
I’m not at all confident it’ll be settled in 90 minutes, but as a more balanced team, I do think Spain will crush Brazil’s back-to-back dreams and win gold.