Japan Under-23s and Mexico Under-23s will meet in Saitama on Sunday, with both teams knowing that a victory would see them advance to the quarter-final stage of the 2020 Olympics.
Mexico opened their Group A campaign with an impressive 4-1 victory over France Under-23s on Thursday, while Japan recorded a 1-0 win over South Africa Under-23s in Tokyo on the same evening.
Japan have placed themselves in a strong position in the section courtesy of their one-goal success over South Africa; Real Madrid’s Takefusa Kubo scored the only goal of the contest in the 71st minute, and the hosts would qualify for the quarter-finals if they were to pick up another win here.
Indeed, Mexico top the section on goal difference, with South Africa and France sitting third and fourth respectively. The top two in each group will advance to the last eight of the competition, which is an indication of how important it is to pick up three points in your first match in this particular format.
Japan will complete their Group A challenge against France on July 28, and Hajime Moriyasu will not want his side to enter that match needing to secure something in order to book their spot in the knockout round.
The 2010 Asian Games gold medallists failed to make it out of the group stage at the 2016 Olympics but finished fourth in 2012, and they had entered this summer’s competition in impressive form.
Indeed, Japan have now won three of their last four matches and have lost just one of their last six, while a strong squad means that they must be taken extremely seriously in this competition.
Mexico, meanwhile, opened their tournament with an impressive 4-1 victory over France at the Tokyo Stadium on Wednesday evening.
Alexis Vega, Sebastian Cordova, Uriel Antuna and Eduardo Aguirre were on the scoresheet for El Tri, who are now top of Group A and in pole position to advance to the quarter-finals with a match to spare.
Mexico will round off their group-stage campaign against South Africa on July 28, and it would be a surprise if they did not qualify from this position considering the strength of their squad this summer.
Jaime Lozano’s side are unbeaten in all competitions since the 2016 Olympics and have won eight of their last nine matches during a brilliant run of form.
Mexico were gold medallists at the 2012 Olympics, beating Brazil Under-23s in the final, but they actually failed to make it out of the group stage in the 2016 Games despite picking up four points from three matches.
Japan Under-23s Olympic Games Men’s Football form:
Japan Under-23s form (all competitions):
Mexico Under-23s Olympic Games Men’s Football form:
Mexico Under-23s form (all competitions):