Tokyo Olympics: Gignac hat-trick helps deny South Africa as Spain end 21-year wait

By Sports Desk July 25, 2021

France got the better of South Africa in a seven-goal thriller as Andre-Pierre Gignac's hat-trick inspired Les Bleus to a 4-3 victory at the Tokyo Olympics.

Having been thrashed 4-1 by Mexico in their opening game of Group A, France hit back to keep their chances of progression alive, though they had to do so the hard way in Saitama.

Indeed, South Africa led on three occasions during a remarkable second half, yet it was Les Bleus who took the points.

Liberato Cacace's stunner was not enough to propel New Zealand to victory against Honduras in Group B, while reigning champions Brazil could only draw 0-0 with the Ivory Coast and Spain overcame Australia thanks to Mikel Oyarzabal's late winner.

 

GIGNAC AND SAVANIER SETTLE THRILLER

France were on the wrong end of conceding four last time out, and though they still let three in this time around, Teji Savanier's stoppage-time goal saw them clinch victory.

It was 35-year-old Gignac who had previously dragged France level on three occasions – a close-range finish followed by a thumping header before the Tigres striker, the leading scorer in the competition, converted his second penalty of the tournament to cancel out Teboho Mokoena's glorious 81st-minute strike.

Luther Singh had missed a first-half penalty for South Africa, with Kobamelo Kodisang and Evidence Makgopa also getting on the scoresheet.

But Gignac's efforts set the stage for France to nose themselves ahead when Montpellier's experienced Savanier lashed home, sending South Africa out in the process.

France sit third in Group A, three points behind leaders Japan, who survived a late scare to beat Mexico 2-1.

ALL WHITES LET LEAD SLIP

Cacace's exceptional strike put New Zealand ahead after just 10 minutes in Kashima – the defender picking out the top-right corner with a first-time effort from 30 yards out.

Luis Palma restored parity in first-half stoppage time, yet Chris Wood carried on his scoring form to put New Zealand back in front just after the restart.

Yet substitutes proved the difference for Honduras. Juan Obregon netted with 12 minutes remaining, paving the way for Rigoberto Rivas to clinch the comeback victory.

Matters were much more simple for South Korea, as they cruised to a 4-0 triumph against Romania, meaning all four Group B teams are on four points heading into the final matchday.

 

OYARZABAL RECORDS LONG-AWAITED SPAIN WIN

Spain secured their first win at an Olympic Games since 2000 thanks to Oyarzabal's header against Australia, which came with nine minutes of normal time remaining.

The 24-year-old Real Sociedad winger – who played a pivotal role in Spain's run to the semi-finals at Euro 2020 – has put La Roja top of Group C heading into Wednesday's encounter with Argentina, who beat Egypt.

Spain, who drew with Egypt in their opener, won gold in 1992 and silver in 2000, but had only qualified once since then, but they failed to score across their three appearances in the 2012 London Games.

CHAMPIONS HELD AS GERMANY BOUNCE BACK

Brazil sparkled in their 4-2 win over Germany on matchday one, though they could not find a way past the Ivory Coast, who held them to a 0-0 draw in Group D.

Douglas Luiz was sent off early on for Brazil, who missed a last-gasp chance to seal qualification through substitute Malcom after the Ivory Coast had also been reduced to 10 men.

Meanwhile, Germany recovered from their defeat on matchday one to beat Saudi Arabia 3-2 – Felix Uduokhai netting the decisive goal in the 75th minute.

Related items

  • Nuno defends Spurs rotation after defeat at Vitesse Nuno defends Spurs rotation after defeat at Vitesse

    Nuno Espirito Santo insisted his focus was on improving Tottenham's young players after his side suffered a 1-0 defeat at Vitesse in the Europa Conference League.

    Maximilian Wittek's second-half strike was enough to see Thomas Letsch's dominant outfit past a sorry Spurs, who have won just two of their last eight away games in Europe.

    The midfielder's left-footed half-volley also ended Tottenham's five-game unbeaten run in the Netherlands in the 21st century, while they remain winless in 2021-22 on the road across three games in European competition.

    Head coach Nuno, who opted to rest Son Heung-min and Harry Kane for the trip to Arnhem, refused to lament his side's performance as he pointed towards a busy schedule requiring rotation of his squad.

    "It was a tough match. I think we competed well. In terms of attack, I think we should finish the actions better. Some combinations were missing," the Spurs boss said.

    "I knew that the game was going to be tough. I am not here to judge the players, I am here to try and improve them. The analysis and the judgement we do it behind closed doors, like you can understand."

    Rennes sit top of Group G, five points clear of Spurs at the halfway point, while Vitesse sit in second on six points.

    However, Nuno appeared calm as he suggested his team can bounce back with their next three games in the competition as they look to make the knockout stages.

    "I think we have two games at home against Vitesse and Rennes, and then we have to play Mura. We can solve the situation of the group," Nuno said, before defending teenage forward Dane Scarlett who struggled against a three-man defence.

    "Dane is 17 years old. It is tough for him, but many of our players who are under 17 are not involved in first-team football," Nuno said. "Experience comes when he competes against top professionals like he did against Vitesse today."

  • Vitesse 1-0 Tottenham: Wittek strike downs uninspiring Spurs Vitesse 1-0 Tottenham: Wittek strike downs uninspiring Spurs

    Maximilian Wittek's second-half strike condemned an insipid Tottenham to a 1-0 loss against Vitesse in the Europa Conference League.

    Spurs had won just two of their last seven away games in European competition before Thursday and their struggles on the road showed in a timid opening 45-minute showing.

    However, the visitors were unfortunate to not go ahead after the interval at the GelreDome as Bryan Gil rifled onto the woodwork in an otherwise uneventful first hour of football.

    Nuno Espirito Santo's side, who rested Harry Kane entirely for the trip to Holland, were eventually made to pay for their lacklustre performance when Wittek drilled in from the edge of the area to end Spurs' unbeaten start in the competition and leave them third in Group G.

    Pierluigi Gollini smothered the first chance of the game as he raced out to deny Nikolai Baden Frederiksen before Jacob Rasmussen flicked narrowly wide following Wittek's corner.

    Nuno's side could not manage a shot on target in the first half but went in level at the break after Thomas Letsch's team failed to make the most of their control of proceedings.

    Spurs duly returned after the interval with greater attacking impetus, Bryan rattling the crossbar with a left-footed curler just two minutes into the second half.

    Eli Dasa then drove narrowly wide of the right-hand post before forcing another save from Gollini as Vitesse piled on the pressure just past the hour mark in a contest of limited opportunities.

    The hosts had scored in each of their last eight games and made it nine when Wittek rifled a left-footed half-volley - via a deflection off Davinson Sanchez - into the bottom-right corner with 13 minutes remaining.

    Spurs pressed on for a late equaliser that did not come, meaning their five-game unbeaten run in the Netherlands in the 21st century came to an end.

  • El Clasico: Barca v Real Madrid result will have an 'incredible' impact, says Belletti El Clasico: Barca v Real Madrid result will have an 'incredible' impact, says Belletti

    Juliano Belletti believes Barcelona and Real Madrid can make memories to last for many years in Sunday's Clasico as he recalled being on the team that swept aside the famous 'Galacticos'.

    Brazilian full-back Belletti spent three seasons at Camp Nou between 2004 and 2007, winning two LaLiga titles and scoring the winner in the 2006 Champions League final against Arsenal.

    He featured in four games against Los Blancos for the Blaugrana, winning one, losing one and drawing two.

    The 45-year-old, who is now assistant manager at Brazilian club Cruzeiro, reflected on the stature of the historic fixture and cast his mind back to his first Clasico after arriving in Catalonia.

    "Most of the best players in the world are [at Barcelona and Real Madrid]," Belletti told Stats Perform. "So, just being involved is already special. Barca and [Real] Madrid have fans all over the world. We are aware of it as football players. And when we are not involved in El Clasico, whether we are from the football world or not, we are watching this game.

    "There is top quality football, there is big rivalry. There is so much history and it is something global. It is not only about LaLiga. That's why I believe the impact of the result of this game, winning or losing, is incredible. That's all what makes this Clasico special.

    "My first Barca v Madrid was at Camp Nou in 2004. We faced 'Los Galacticos' of Real Madrid. It was very special for me to be there at that time.

    "Besides, we won that game 3-0. It was even more special as my first time playing against 'Los Galacticos' and winning the game. And even nowadays my family remembers that day."

     

    David Beckham, Roberto Carlos, Luis Figo, Zinedine Zidane and Brazilian striker Ronaldo were all in the Madrid team in that November 2004 game, with Samuel Eto'o, Giovanni van Bronckhorst and Ronaldinho scoring for Barcelona.

    Belletti says those that feature in this weekend's game will already feel, with some justification, that they have made it in the game.

    "This sport is very competitive," Belletti said. "Reaching Barca or Real [Madrid] is a very high level, so demanding, a very hard-working culture. So, being there, you think: 'Oh my god, I did well. Now it is time to enjoy it.'"

    Barcelona have been experiencing a decline of late, with the Catalan giants failing to win the league in their last two seasons and not claiming a Champions League title since 2015.

    Furthermore, financial difficulties prevented the club from offering Lionel Messi a new contract, with the six-time Ballon d'Or winner joining Paris Saint-Germain on a free transfer, and Barca started this year poorly in his absence.

    They have won their last two games, however, beating Valencia 3-1 in LaLiga and Dynamo Kiev 1-0 in the Champions League as under-pressure head coach Ronald Koeman looks to generate momentum ahead of the first Clasico of the campaign, possibly a pivotal match in his reign.

© 2020 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.