MX23RW : Wednesday, September 22 08:05:01| >> :600:4073159:4073159:
Aug 6, 2021 at 10am UK at Saitama Stadium 2002
Mexico U23sMexico Under-23s
Japan U23sJapan Under-23s
Cordova (13' pen.), Vasquez (22'), Vega (58')
Vasquez (27'), Sanchez (42'), Ochoa (90+3')
FT(HT: 2-0)
Mitoma (78')
Endo (19'), Ueda (80')

Preview: Japan Under-23s vs. Mexico Under-23s - prediction, team news, lineups

Sports Mole previews Friday's Olympic Games Men's Football clash between Japan Under-23s and Mexico Under-23s, including predictions, team news and possible lineups.

With their hopes of Tokyo 2020 Olympics gold now dead in the water, Japan Under-23s and Mexico Under-23s do battle on Friday lunchtime at the Saitama Stadium 2002 for the right to wear the bronze medal around their necks.

The hosts' Olympic dream ended with an extra-time defeat to Spain in the semi-finals, while Mexico were outclassed from 12 yards by Brazil's young starlets.

Match preview

Japan players celebrate after winning the penalty shoot-out on July 31, 2021© Reuters

While the 2020 Games have been devoid of the raucous home crowds that Japan's players were pining for, Hajime Moriyasu's side acted like true professionals to navigate the group stage unbeaten and sink New Zealand on penalties in the last eight of the tournament.

Japan were rewarded for their endeavours with a daunting clash against Spain but managed to hold their own for 115 minutes of the encounter, until Real Madrid's Marco Asensio proceeded to curl in a delightful left-footed effort to end the host nation's hopes of footballing gold.

However, Moriyasu's proteges are still in with a shot at making history for Japan, who have only ever claimed one bronze medal in men's football back in 1968 - when the Games were for amateur players and before the 23 and under rule came into force - and their best finish since that tournament 53 years ago was fourth place at London 2012.

Having conceded just two goals throughout the tournament - while notching up seven at the correct end of the field - Japan's defensive veterans in Maya Yoshida and Hiroki Sakai have provided the stability worthy of a top-three finish, but Mexico are not exactly renowned for any sort of profligacy.

Luis Romo of Mexico celebrates scoring their second goal with teammates on July 31, 2021© Reuters

It was South Korea who forced Japan to settle for fourth place at London 2012 with a 2-0 victory in the bronze medal match, but this time around, they were simply outgunned and outclassed by Mexico in a 6-3 drubbing as Jaime Lozano's side marched on to the final four, where they would meet Brazil.

As was the case with Japan and Spain, the two sides could not be separated over the course of a goalless 90 minutes and the scoreline stayed at 0-0 following extra time, leading to a battle of nerves from the penalty spot for the right to fight for the gold medal.

Carlos Rodriguez's effort would find the back of the net, but by that point Mexico had already missed their first two spot kicks through Eduardo Aguirre and Johan Vasquez, leaving Reinier the simple task of slotting home to confirm a 4-1 shootout victory for Brazil.

As a result, there will be no repeat of the famous 2012 gold medal run for Mexico - who overcame Brazil in the final that year - but significant progress has been made since the 2016 Olympics, during which El Tri exited with a whimper in the group stages.

Japan and Mexico have already locked horns at the Tokyo Games during their Group A runs - with the Asian side coming up trumps 2-1 on July 25 - and interestingly, El Tri were on the losing side in the third-place playoff when Japan claimed their only Olympic men's football medal to date 53 years ago.

Japan Under-23s Olympic Games Men's Football form:
  • W
  • W
  • W
  • W
  • L

Japan Under-23s form (all competitions):
  • D
  • W
  • W
  • W
  • W
  • L

Mexico Under-23s Olympic Games Men's Football form:
  • W
  • L
  • W
  • W
  • L

Mexico Under-23s form (all competitions):
  • W
  • W
  • L
  • W
  • W
  • L

Team News

Bologna's Takehiro Tomiyasu pictured in July 2020© Reuters

Japan centre-back Takehiro Tomiyasu returns for the bronze medal match after serving a suspension against Spain, which could see Manchester City's Ko Itakura drop out of the rearguard.

The Bologna man's return means that Japan are well-stocked before their shot at glory, but Moriyasu is now under pressure to find the right attacking formula for Friday's game.

Daichi Hayashi was once again trusted from the first whistle in the semi-final but failed to make the net ripple, meaning that opportunities could be there for Daizen Maeda or Ayase Ueda to spearhead the frontline.

Mexico also have a player back from a ban in the form of Jorge Sanchez, who could feature either at right or left-back in place of Vladimir Lorona or Jesus Angulo.

Rodriguez was forced to settle for a substitute outing following his return from suspension in the semi-final, but the 24-year-old could now be recalled to the midfield in place of Jose Esquivel.

With Lozano likely to persist with the attacking trident of Uriel Antuna, Henry Martin and Alexis Vega, Real Betis starlet Diego Lainez may have to be content with a spot on the bench again.

Japan Under-23s possible starting lineup:
Tani; Sakai, Yoshida, Tomiyasu, Hatate; Endo, Tanaka; Doan, Kubo, Soma; Hayashi

Mexico Under-23s possible starting lineup:
Ochoa; Sanchez, Montes, Vasquez, Angulo; Romo, Rodriguez, Cordova; Antuna, Martin, Vega

SM words green background

We say: Japan Under-23s 1-0 Mexico Under-23s

The return of Tomiyasu is a significant boost to a Japan side with some highly celebrated names in the ranks, and the host nation know what it takes to beat Mexico having done so less than two weeks ago in the group stages.

Lozano's men proved their goalscoring prowess against South Korea, but the two fatigued outfits are unlikely to play out a high-scoring affair on Friday, and we are tipping Japan to just edge this encounter and claim only a second-ever medal in men's Olympic football.

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Matheus Cunha of Brazil celebrates scoring their first goal with teammates on July 31, 2021
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