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Tokyo Olympics - Preview: Saudi Arabia chase history against Brazil despite early exit

Saitama: It is back where it all started for Saudi Arabia as they conclude their Tokyo 2020 Men's Football campaign on Wednesday with a repeat of their first-ever Olympics football match against reigning champions Brazil at Saitama Stadium, having already been eliminated from Group D.

Defeats in two closely fought encounters against Côte d'Ivoire and Germany meant the young Green Falcons’ hopes were dashed ahead of the final matchday, but there is still reason for Salem Al Dawsari and company to fight as they dream of a first-ever win in the Olympics for Saudi Arabia.

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Saudi Arabia’s campaign has so far seen them hold on to a 1-1 draw in their opening match until the hour mark before Franck Kessie settled the tie for the Ivorians, with Al Dawsari having earlier cancelled out Abdulelah Al Amri’s own goal. In their next game, Saudi Arabia came from behind twice to match Germany 2-2 but a late Felix Uduokhai header downed them despite holding a one-man advantage for 20 minutes.

In turn, Brazil romped to a 4-2 victory against Germany, with Everton star Richarlison bagging a 22-minute hat-trick in the first half and Bayer Leverkusen’s Paulinho adding a fourth late on. The Samba boys were then denied early qualification to the next round after being held to a goalless draw by Côte d'Ivoire, leaving them in need of at least one point from their last game to continue their title defence.

The Brazil tie brings back fond memories for the Saudis despite having lost their previous encounter against the Seleção back in 1984. The legendary Majed Abdullah marked a historic moment in the nation’s Olympic history as he became the first-ever Saudi player to score in the Olympics in what was the Green Falcons’ debut in the competition. Gilmar, Silvinho and future Seleção captain Dunga scored for the Brazilians on the occasion.

Since that game, Saudi Arabia competed in seven more matches at the Olympics, losing to Germany (twice), Morocco, Spain, France, Australia and Côte d'Ivoire across 1984, 1996 and 2020.

Signs of gradual progress exist for the Saudis who have already matched their combined scoring tally from their two previous Olympic campaigns with three goals this term, up from one in 1984 and two in 1996, and with head coach Saad Al Shehri employing an exciting attacking style of play, there is reason to believe there will be at least one more goal for them on Wednesday.

Saudi Arabia v Brazil
Venue: Saitama Stadium
Kickoff: 17:00 (UTC+9)

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