Japan’s dreams of winning the men’s football competition at Tokyo 2020 and capturing gold on home soil has come to an end. Spain scored a 115th minute goal to beat the Samurai Blue, 1-0, in a back-and-forth semifinal.
Japan played well and stymied a Spain team that featured six players from their Euro 2020 squad. The Samurai Blue were content to give up possession and limit Spain to shots from distance, defending well to eliminate anything in close, which they did. The result was a cagey match that had both teams inches away from the gold medal match for 120 minutes.
The Samurai Blue were dangerous on the counter, threatening with creativity and invention. Takefusa Kuba, who joined Real Madrid from F.C.Tokyo in 2019, continued his excellent tournament with another standout performance. He nearly scored in the second half, but a good save kept Japan off the scoresheet.
On the other end, Spain were able to get through on a couple occasions in regular time, but Kosei Tani, on loan this season with Shonan Bellmare from Gamba Osaka, was there to deny them with some fine stops.
With five minutes before penalty kicks, Spain finally found the back of the net when Real Madrid star Marco Asensio spun and hit a perfect curler just inside the post. It took something spectacular to beat Japan’s committed defense, and that’s what Asensio managed to deliver Spain the win.
The tournament is not yet over for Japan, who will play Mexico in the bronze medal match. The Samurai Blue have already topped Mexico once in this tournament, winning 2-1 in the group stage. If they win, it will be Japan’s first Olympic medal in men’s football since 1968.