Sunday, 19 September, 2021

Champions Brazil held as Gignac rescues France

Champions Brazil held as Gignac rescues France
France forward Andre-Pierre Gignac celebrates after scoring the third goal during the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games men’s group A first round match against South Africa at Saitama Stadium in Saitama on Sunday. – AFP PHOTO

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Reigning champions Brazil were held to a goalless draw by the Ivory Coast in the men's Olympic football competition on Sunday, while Andre-Pierre Gignac's hat-trick in a 4-3 win over South Africa kept France's hopes alive.

Brazil, who won gold for the first time five years ago on home soil in Rio, could have moved to the brink of qualification for the knock-out stage in Yokohama but were denied by a stubborn Ivory Coast.

It could have been worse, though, as they had to play more than an hour with 10 men after Aston Villa midfielder Douglas Luiz's 13th-minute red card for bringing down Youssouf Dao when he was through on goal.

Eboue Kouassi's late dismissal evened up the numbers, but the Ivorians held on as former Barcelona winger Malcom missed a late chance for the South Americans.

Brazil lead Group D on goal difference ahead of their final game of the opening phase against Saudi Arabia, who face Germany later Sunday.

France would have been staring at an early exit with a slip-up against South Africa, but veteran striker Gignac rescued Les Bleus in a pulsating match in Saitama.

South Africa will need to beat Mexico in their last group game and hope other results go their way to have any chance of making the last eight.

Elsewhere, New Zealand missed an opportunity to all but qualify from Group B as Honduras came from behind to win 3-2 in Kashima.

Argentina bounced back from their opening defeat by Australia in Group C with a 1-0 victory over Egypt.