Brazil squeeze through qualifiers to defend Olympic title in Japan

February 10 – Defending champions Brazil have qualified for the Olympic Games in Tokyo this summer after overcoming rivals Argentina 3-0 in a crunch qualifier. The Argentineans had already booked their ticket. 

Brazil had their backs against the wall against Argentina following Uruguay’s 3-1 win over hosts Colombia at the South American U-23 Championship, the first iteration of the tournament since 2004. The Argentineans, with star players Alexis MacAllister, who is Brighton-bound, and support striker Julian Alvarez, were undefeated in the tournament, but failed to maintain that unbeaten record against the Brazilians.

Brazil were without star players like Vinicius Jr., Rodrygo and Gabriel Martinelli, who had not been released by their clubs for the tournament. Leverkusen and RB Leizpig did release Paulinho and Matheus Cunha respectively and both German-based players were on target, Cunha scoring a brace in a 3-0 victory for Brazil. Argentina were without Lautaro Martinez and Exequiel Palacios.

In 2016, Brazil won the Olympic Games on home soil, defeating Germany in a dramatic final after a penalty shoot-out at the Maracana. It was the first time that Brazil had won the Olympic gold medal – a glaring omission in their honours list.

In Tokyo, Brazil will and Argentina will carry South America hopes, in a playing field that is almost complete. In Europe, France, Germany, Spain and Romania have qualified. New Zealand will represent Oceania and Egypt, Ivory and South Africa will represent Africa. Saudi Arabia, South Korea and Australia will fly the Asian flag, alongside hosts Japan. In March, the last two participants, from the Concacaf zone, will be decided.

The Olympic football tournament will run from July 23 to August 8, with the International Stadium Yokohama hosting the final.

Contact the writer of this story, Samindra Kunti, at moc.l1585622767labto1585622767ofdlr1585622767owedi1585622767sni@o1585622767fni1585622767