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Tokyo Olympics - Group D: Brave Saudi Arabia stopped by Germany

Yokohama: Saudi Arabia came from behind twice but eventually came up short, losing 3-2 against Germany in Group D of the Tokyo Olympics Men's Football tournament to depart the competition in the group stage.

Both sides had lost their opening match; Saudi Arabia being edged out 2-1 by Côte d'Ivoire and Germany falling to a 4-2 defeat against Brazil. And with the earlier Sunday game ending in a goalless draw, Saudi Arabia and Germany knew a defeat for either would mean early elimination.

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A shaky start from the Saudis allowed Germany to dominate the early proceedings, with Ragnar Ache heading Nadiem Amiri’s cross from a free-kick just wide off target and Eduard Lowen drawing a diving save from goalkeeper Mohammed Al Rubaie, both inside the opening five minutes.

Striker Abdullah Al Hamdan thought he had opened his account in the tournament against the run of play after he started a move that saw Salem Al Dawsari embark on a 40-yard run then cross for Al Hamdan, who was deemed by the referee to have handled the ball upon controlling before finding the back of the net for a ruled-out goal.

It was the Germans who took the lead at the culmination of a thrilling opening 10 minutes with a finely executed passing move seeing Max Kruse feeding Cedric Teuchert out wide and the latter crossing first time for Amiri to drive home the opener.

Coach Saad Al Shehri’s men grew into the game and by the half-hour mark, they had found the equaliser. A piece of vertical build-up play saw Ali Al Hassan drive forward and feed Salman Al Faraj at the circle. The Saudi skipper found Al Dawsari out wide, and a solo run followed by a curler from the latter was parried by goalkeeper but only as far as the onrushing Al Najee who buried it home for 1-1.

As the first half looked headed to end in a stalemate, Amos Pieper produced a smart diagonal pass into the box for Ache whose headed effort was saved by Al Rubaie but the German midfielder followed through on the rebound to restore Germany’s lead.

Unlike the first half, Saudi Arabia started the second period brightly, and were rewarded with a goal within five minutes of the restart as Saud Abdulhamid advanced into the box down the right, exchanging a one-two with Ayman Al Khulaif and crossing for Al Najee who slotted home his second of the game to bring the scores level.

The young Green Falcons’ chances were boosted midway through the second half after Germany were reduced to 10 men. Al Dawsari showed intelligence and drive to beat Amos Pieper to an ill-weighted pass and the defender was left with no choice but to bring the winger down, deserving his marching orders having been the last defender.

Despite their numerical disadvantage, it was the Germans who found the next goal with captain Kruse whipping a cross from the corner that was met by a composed Felix Uduokhai header sending it into the back of the net to win it for Germany with 15 minutes to go.

With the defeat consigning them to elimination, Saudi Arabia end their Tokyo 2020 campaign on Wednesday as they face reigning champions Brazil, while Germany need a win in their last match against Côte d'Ivoire to progress to the next round.

Photos: FIFA via Getty Images, AFP

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