A 5-2 victory in extra time over Ivory Coast on Saturday saw Spain end a 21-year Olympic football drought by reaching the semi-finals. Rafa Mir scored a hat-trick to secure an extra-time win on Saturday.
When Max Gradel made it 2-1 in stoppage time, it appeared that Ivory Coast had secured its spot in the final four. Almost immediately, Mir beat the clock by scoring and forced extra time. A bizarre handball inside the box resulted in a penalty, ending Ivory Coast’s hopes of a win. Eric Bailly, the initial goalscorer, had turned from hero to villain in his act of conceding the penalty. In the 98th minute, Mikel Oyarzabal scored from the penalty spot before Mir added two more goals after the Ivory Coast defence was exhausted to seal the victory.
Spain’s victory ensures that they will reach the semi-finals for the first time since claiming silver at the 2000 Sydney Games. Spain won a men’s football Olympic gold medal in 1992, the last gold medal won by a European nation. Elsewhere, a resilient Japan, the host nation of the Tokyo Olympics, defeated New Zealand 4-2 in penalties on Saturday to advance to the semifinals in men’s football. As neither team managed to score in 120 minutes at the Kashima Stadium, captain Maya Yoshida made the winning spot-kick to seal the victory.