Martin Mejia/Associated Press
The Olympic men’s soccer tournament has a more diverse set of quarterfinalists than we would typically see at the World Cup.
Africa, Asia, Europe, North America, South America and Oceania are all represented in the final eight. Africa and Asia are the only continents with two teams left alive for a gold medal.
Perennial contenders Argentina, Germany and France were sent packing after the group stage partly because of the different dynamic of the Olympic tournament compared to a World Cup.
The top clubs are not required to release their best under-23 talent, which led to the French and Germans fielding weaker squads in Japan.
Brazil has had some of its top talent available for the Summer Olympics, and those players could be the difference-makers in the knockout round.
Brazil is the reigning champion of the men’s Olympic soccer tournament, but it is not the favorite to win gold in Tokyo. Spain, with Pedri commanding the midfield, is a slight favorite over Brazil.
Men’s Soccer Olympics Quarterfinal Schedule
Saturday, July 31
Spain vs. Ivory Coast (4 a.m. ET, NBCSN)
Japan vs. New Zealand (5 a.m. ET, USA Network)
Brazil vs. Egypt (6 a.m. ET)
South Korea vs. Mexico (7 a.m. ET, USA Network)
Odds To Win Tournament
Spain (+140; bet $100 to win $140)
South Korea (+1600)
Ivory Coast (+4500)
New Zealand (+10000)
Brazil’s Attack Drives It to Easy Win
Martin Mejia/Associated Press
Even though Brazil did not score more goals than any team in the group stage, an argument can be made it has the best attack left in the tournament.
Richarlison, Matheus Cunha and Antony headline a collection of attackers that placed seven goals into the back of the net over three games.
Everton’s Richarlison owns a clear advantage in the Golden Boot race. His second-half brace against Saudi Arabia moved him two goals ahead of three players still active with five goals. France’s Andre-Pierre Gignac scored four times in his country’s failed attempt to make the knockout round.
On paper, Brazil looks to have a challenging matchup with an Egyptian defense that conceded once in 270 minutes.
Egypt held Spain scoreless in its group-stage opener and then beat Australia to secure its position in the final eight.
Egypt had a bit of difficulty with Argentina in its lone Group B defeat. It lost the possession battle and only managed to put two of its eight shots on target.
The good news for the Egyptians is they held Argentina to two shots on target, but their attack is far less formidable than Brazil’s.
The combination of Richarlison, Cunha and Antony could be too much for Egypt to handle, and it will also have to deal with the overlapping runs from Dani Alves, who is one of the most experienced over-age players at the U23 competition.
Brazil should control a bulk of the possession battle, and it has the individual brilliance across its attack to put Egypt under pressure from the start.
If Brazil gets past Egypt, it will face a tricky matchup with either South Korea or Mexico, both of whom had a goal differential of plus-five or better in the group phase.
Brazil has to get to the final four first, and it should put multiple goals past Egypt to reach that spot.
Spain Grits Through Quarterfinal Win
DeFodi Images/Getty Images
If you have watched any Spanish national team in the last decade, you know it is capable of grinding out a 1-0 result.
Spain typically controls the possession battle, and it will patiently work through the midfield and defensive lines to create chances over 90 minutes.
La Roja will have to do just that to take down Ivory Coast in the final eight. The Ivory Coast played to draws with Germany and Brazil to help secure its quarterfinal spot.
Pedri is expected to dictate the tempo of the match in midfield. In the group stage, he did not seem to be affected by a busy workload this summer that included a run to the Euro 2020 semifinals.
At the back, Pau Torres, Eric Garcia and Co. had put together a 267-minute scoreless streak in the group stage before Argentina earned an 87th-minute equalizer on Wednesday.
Spain held Egypt and Australia to one combined shot on goal in the first two Group B games and it absorbed four of the five attempts on target made by Argentina in the group finale.
Ivory Coast did not score a goal on its own against Brazil and Germany. It benefited from a 69th-minute own goal to tie the Germans.
If Spain produces a similar control as it had in the group stage, it should limit the number of opportunities earned by the African side.
Spain may not need multiple goals to earn a victory, and as long as one of Dani Olmo, Marco Asensio and Mikel Oyarzabal can strike the back of the net, it should secure a spot in the semifinals.
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