MX23RW : Tuesday, September 21 16:36:16| >> :600:4017434:4017434:
Aug 3, 2021 at 12pm UK
Japan U23sJapan Under-23s
0-1
Spain U23sSpain Under-23s

Sakai (99')
FT
(aet)
Asensio (115')
Gil (13'), Merino (51'), Zubimendi (90+5'), Vallejo (110'), Asensio (115'), Mir (117')

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

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

With a place in the Tokyo 2020 Olympics men's Gold medal match at stake, Japan Under-23s welcome Spain Under-23s to home territory at the Saitama Stadium 2002 on Tuesday lunchtime.

The host nation prevailed in a nail-biting penalty shootout with New Zealand to make the final four, whereas Spain's five-star showing against Ivory Coast saw them progress at the weekend.


Match preview

Japan coach Hajime Moriyasu before the match on July 22, 2021© Reuters

None of South Africa, Mexico or France was able to hold their own against Japan's hugely talented prospects during the group stage of the Olympic Games, and Hajime Moriyasu's men could have been forgiven for expecting a simple route to the semis against New Zealand.

However, the Olywhites navigated two hours of football without shipping a goal - albeit as well as not finding the back of the net at the correct end of the pitch - and the two nations would bid to prove their prowess from the spot for a spot in the final four.

After Liberato Cacace's effort from 12 yards was kept out by Kosei Tani, Clayton Lewis blazed his effort over the bar, allowing veteran defender Maya Yoshida to convert as scenes of unbridled delirium followed for Japan on home soil.

Moriyasu has vowed that his Japan team will "battle it out to the death" in Tuesday's semi-final as they bid to maintain their 100% record in the tournament so far, and ending his side's 53-year stint without an Olympic medal in men's football is all the motivation that the host nation need to get the job done.

Rafa Mir of Spain celebrates scoring their fourth goal with teammates on July 31, 2021© Reuters

While Japan were nullified by New Zealand's dogged defence in the quarter-finals, Spain laced up their finest shooting boots for their encounter with Ivory Coast, but Luis de la Fuente's side were mere minutes away from seeing their Olympic dreams crushed.

With the scores level pegging at 1-1, veteran winger Max Gradel seemed to have won it for the African nation during second-half injury time, only for sparkling substitute Rafa Mir to take the tie to extra time within seconds of being introduced onto the field of play.

The Spanish starlets soon clicked into sixth gear during the final 30 minutes of the match, as Mir completed his hat-trick with two quickfire strikes after Mikel Oyarzabal's 98th-minute penalty during a 5-2 rout, but the story could have panned out a whole lot differently for Spain had Mir not been on hand to prod home in the dying embers of normal time.

Hailed "the real protagonist" by De la Fuente after Spain's spot in the final four was sealed, Mir single-handedly led the charge for a Spain side who thoroughly deserved the victory on the day, with De la Fuente claiming that "justice" had been done to his side.

Either Mexico or Brazil will face the winners of this encounter in the showpiece event on August 7, and London 2012 saw Spain and Japan lock horns in the group stage, where a Roja side featuring several now-celebrated names succumbed to a 1-0 defeat.

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

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

Spain Under-23s Olympic Games Men's Football form:
  • D
  • W
  • D
  • W



Team News

Bologna's Takehiro Tomiyasu pictured in July 2020© Reuters

Japan right-back Hiroki Sakai is back from suspension and should take his rightful place in the rearguard, but Tottenham Hotspur-linked Takehiro Tomiyasu will sit this one out after picking up two bookings.

With the Bologna man watching on from the naughty step, Manchester City's Ko Itakura - who converted one of Japan's penalties in their shootout victory over New Zealand - should partner Yoshida here.

Daichi Hayashi was given the nod up top for the quarter-final but failed to fire on the night, which could see Ayase Ueda trusted in the final third this week.

Versatile Spanish defender Oscar Mingueza lasted just 11 minutes on Saturday before his troublesome thigh problem forced him off the field; he was replaced by Jesus Vallejo on the day, but Oscar Gil - who will return from suspension - is a more like-for-like replacement.

Real Madrid's Dani Ceballos is yet to recover from a nasty-looking ankle injury sustained during Spain's opener with Egypt, meaning that tireless teenager Pedri cannot take a break just yet.

Dani Olmo and Oyarzabal should both retain their places in the final third after finding the back of the net last time out, but Mir has surely done enough to displace Marco Asensio for the semi-final.

Japan Under-23s possible starting lineup:
Tani; Sakai, Itakura, Yoshida, Hatate; Endo, Tanaka; Doan, Kubo, Mitoma; Ueda

Spain Under-23s possible starting lineup:
Simon; Gil, Garcia, Torres, Cucurella; Zubimendi, Merino, Pedri; Oyarzabal, Mir, Olmo


SM words green background

We say: Japan Under-23s 0-2 Spain Under-23s

Japan have done remarkably well to make it this far on home soil, but failure to find the back of the net in 120 minutes against New Zealand may lead to a hint of apprehension from Moriyasu ahead of Tuesday's game.

Spain are also entering the semi-final off the back of a gruelling two hours in the quarter-finals, but we still expect De la Fuente's side to showcase their superior quality in all areas of the pitch during a straightforward run to the Gold medal match.


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How you voted: Japan U23s vs Spain U23s

Japan Under-23s
46.7%
Spain Under-23s
53.3%
90
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