Japan and Mexico face off to decide the winner of the bronze medal at Tokyo 2020. It’s the game neither side wanted to be involved in and the game that will remind them they came agonisingly close. The bronze medal playoff has a similar feel to the 3rd/4th game at the World Cup, but there is an Olympic medal at stake, and that should ensure, unlike the World Cup, the players will take Friday afternoon’s challenge seriously. Fans, the coaching staff of both nations and neutrals watching the action worldwide live on TV will demand those involved give their all one last time.
Japan and Mexico have been amongst the most impressive teams at this summer’s competition, with the host nation pulling off several upset results. They found the extra gear that host nations at major tournament’s often do and battled their way into the latter stages, despite many respected pundits suggesting the team would play three group games then bow out. Mexico were another team that looked capable of winning goal until their semi-final defeat in midweek. The players on both sides will be hurting from Tuesday’s loss but must dust themselves down and get back on track in time for this fixture.
Which team will come out on top? Will we see the Japanese adventure end on a high with the players walking away with a medal and showing the future of the sport is exciting in the region? Perhaps Mexico will show their class and feed off the anger and hurt of defeat in their last start to ensure they go home with something to show for their efforts. There’s all to play for here, and viewers can follow live from 12:30 GMT.
Japan captured the imagination of fans
Japan certainly aren’t the first host nation at a major football tournament to perform above expectations, but they did do it with style this summer. The locals didn’t start as one of the early favourites, but after racing into an early lead and winning their group, the doubters were forced to take the team’s chances seriously. Japan didn’t put a foot wrong during their first three games in the groups, and they captured the imagination of football fans worldwide. Could they build on their success in the group and go all the way to win gold?
The host nation finished top of pool A with a maximum of nine points collected. They scored seven goals and conceded just one, which, on closer inspection, made them the best defence of that stage and one of the best-attacking sides. The nine points gained left Japan three points ahead of Mexico in second place, six better than France who finished third and went home early and nine clear of bottom club South Africa who did little more than make up the numbers and ensure all groups had an even number of competitors.
After progressing to the knockout stages of Tokyo 2020, Japan kept going with victory over New Zealand in the quarter-finals. The previously free-scoring Japanese weren’t as exciting in attack during that match, and they ended goalless with New Zealand after 90 minutes of regulation time and 30 minutes of extra time. The match was decided on penalties, and Japan held their nerve to progress to the last four thanks to a 4-2 result. They were last seen suffering their first loss of the summer when beaten 1-0 in extra time by Spain on Tuesday.
Mexico fell at the final hurdle
Unlike their opponents on Friday, Mexico were one of the solid early favourites to win the gold medal and prove they remain a force at this level. The Mexican team coming through the ranks were tasked with showing the future is bright in the region, and Mexico will again soon be back competing for major trophies, including the World Cup. The players wanted to win gold to ensure everyone in their country knew their name, and they’d be given a fair crack at making the next World Cup. They went incredibly close to achieving it too but just fell at the final hurdle, knocked out in the semi-final by Brazil on penalties following a gruelling 120 minutes of open play.
The interesting thing about this match is that the teams involved will be playing for the second time this summer after sharing Group A. Japan won that pool ahead of Mexico in second, and the runners up will be itching to get their own back and claim revenge when it matters most. The defeat in the group would have stung everyone connected to Team Mexico. Still, it will be forgotten if the players stand up and deliver the bronze medal, ensuring they don’t go home at the end of play with nothing to show for their efforts other than playing a part in the closing stages. A bronze medal isn’t what the team had hoped for last month, but it’s better than no medal.
Mexico booked their place in Tuesday’s semi-final match against Brazil with a win over South Korea in the quarter-final on the closing day of July. It was a game they were expected to win, and they did it at a canter, blasting their way to a stunning 6-3 result achieved inside 90 minutes. They were suspect at the back, often leaving themselves open to the counter-attack, but Mexico was fast, energetic, imaginative, and full of goals in attack. The coaching staff worked on the problems and saw the nation keep a clean sheet against Brazil in the semi-final, losing 4-1 on penalties.
Japan v Mexico prediction
This could easily have been the gold medal game, but both sides were narrowly beaten in midweek. If the players give this bronze medal decider their full attention, we should be in for a thrilling contest with extra time and penalties a possibility. Japan and Mexico have shown they can create chances and scoring lots of goals. Neutrals will want to see the sides abandon their defensive set-up adopted in the semis and put on a show.
Tokyo 2020 odds
The pre-match betting at 22bet has Tokyo trading at 3.44 with Mexico a 3.06 option and the draw 2.19.
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