The Olympic men’s football final pits two of the sport’s titans against each other in Tokyo – as Brazil take on Spain at the International Stadium Yokohoma.
Having beaten Germany on penalties to clinch the title on home soil five years ago, the Seleção will be looking to defend their title.
There will be no Neymar this time around, though they might not need him – Everton’s Richarlison leads the scoring charts with five goals at the tournament so far.
Dani Alves urges Messi to remain at Barcelona
Neymar’s former partner in crime will be present though, as ex-Barcelona right-back Dani Alves captains his country in Tokyo at 38-years-old.
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On the subject of Barcelona, for Spain the gold medal match gifts them a shot at a first Olympic title since they hosted the games in Catalonia back in 1992 – four years before semi-final hero Marco Asensio was born.
The Real Madrid man carries Spanish hopes of a return to Games glory, a burden shared by teenage sensation Pedri as the youngster heads towards his 71st game of the season.
Yes, that Dani Alves.
Incredibly, the legendary right-back is still out on the pursuit of silverware.
The most decorated player in football history, one would think that 42 titles might have quenched his thirst but Alves is showing no signs of slowing, playing every minute of Brazil’s road to the final.
“It means a feeling of achieving a dream, every high-performance athlete wants to be here,” Alves said.
“Being here, being able to represent my people, at football, is an honour for me.”
Having spent eight years at Barcelona before spells with Juventus and Paris Saint-Germain, Alves has played in his native country for Sao Paulo since 2019.
It is fitting that he should be pitted against Spain in the final, the country in which he forged his name as one of the greatest full-backs of all time.
Spain’s saviour in the final, the Real Madrid star remains a huge talent despite a career disrupted by injury.
Under the tutelage of Zinedine Zidane, the playmaker burst onto the scene as one of Europe’s premium young talents in 2017, scoring against Juventus in the Champions League final.
A devastating ACL injury in pre-season before the 2019-20 season set Asensio back, as he made only 9 La Liga appearances that season, but he was ever-present last year despite competition from Eden Hazard and Vinicius Junior.
With a new manager to impress at the Bernabeu next year, Carlo Ancelotti, Asensio will be desperate to showcase his undoubted ability against Brazil.
Despite an inconsistent season at Goodison Park, the Everton front-man has showed his best form in Tokyo.
A £50m signing from Watford, Richarlison dazzled with 13 league goals in each of his first two campaigns on Merseyside but scored just 7 last season as Everton struggled for form under Carlo Ancelotti.
However, in Tokyo he became the first Premier League player to score a hat-trick at the Games with a treble against Germany in the group stage.
He followed that haul up with a brace against Saudi Arabia, taking him top of the scoring charts heading into the final.
Infamous for his bird dance celebration, anyone wondering how the forward would celebrate should Brazil triumph need not speculate.
In an interview with FIFA.com, he said: “I never imagined myself getting a tattoo, but if Brazil win Olympic gold I am definitely getting one.
“I would simply have to commemorate the moment. It would mean so much to go down in history.”
70 games down, one to go.
It’s a lot of games for an 18-year-old, but you would only have needed to see Pedri play once for Barcelona or Spain to see why the youngster is deemed so important to his team.
Signed from Las Palmas in 2020, Pedri lit up La Liga with his performances for Barcelona last season before setting off to the Euros to impress even further for Luis Enrique’s national side.
Pedri’s monster schedule has led many to express concern over burnout, but there have been no such complaints from the Tenerife-born midfielder.
“I feel good,” he said after the victory over Japan in the semi-finals.
“It’s normal for people to say that I must be tired, but I try to rest well after every game.
With the bombshell news that Lionel Messi will not be signing a new Barcelona contract, Pedri might not be getting any more rest anytime soon.
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