With the Tokyo 2020 Olympics slowly drawing to a close, several events move into their final two matches (the medal games). The No. 1 teams in volleyball (Brazil), field hockey (Australia) and women’s soccer (USA) are all in action with a medal at stake on Thursday. Here is a look at some games for you to consider from Day 13 at the Tokyo Olympics.
Brazil has lost just one match at the Olympics so far – to ROC in straight sets. However, Brazil is still the world’s No. 1 volleyball team in the men’s section, with 422 world ranking points. Russia is a little lower on the table, at third, with 369 points. Considering these two factors, the odds have been set slightly in favor of Brazil but not so much to indicate that it is a heavy favorite.
News and Notes
Brazil has been in sprightly form at this tournament, winning five of six matches played. Two of those victories came in the fifth set while the only loss was a demoralizing defeat to ROC. In the previous match, Brazil cruised past Japan without hassle to set up this medal clash. “We lost because we couldn’t cope with Brazil’s power and strength,” Japanese captain Yuki Ishikawa said after the match.
That dominant performance was led by Yoandy Leal, who had 16 points. Wallace de Souza chipped in with 13 points while Ricardo Lucarelli had 12 points.
“Our reception was very good today. We served strong and pushed their setter back, so they had to play a lot of long balls,” said Bruno Rezende, Brazil’s captain. “We need to adapt to the new Russian style. They always keep the ball in play, so we have to be patient and not rush.”
The Russian Olympic Committee volleyball team has also been in fine touch right through this competition. It has also lost just one match so far, a 3-1 defeat to France in group play. In the quarterfinal, ROC beat Canada in straight sets 25-21, 30-28, 25-22, led by exceptional performances from Dmitry Volkov and Maxim Mikhaylov.
Betting Pick: Brazil -143
Brazil was blanked in the previous meeting between these teams but that is unlikely to happen again. There were too many errors in that defeat, which Brazil admitted to. Even though this Russian team is no pushover, it will be hard to replicate that incredible success in this match as well, especially with the gold medal at stake.
The best team in the world faces the second-best team in the world in a gold-medal match at the Olympics. That sounds about normal in a year of abnormality. Australia has been simply sensational right through this tournament while Belgium is coming into this final on the back of a resounding comeback against India in the semifinal. Overall, on paper, Australia will begin as a slight favorite because of the deeper roster and better world ranking.
News and Notes
We have to go all the way back to the start of the year to find when Australia lost a match in normal time in hockey, which was incidentally to Belgium in the FIH League. Australia has either won or drawn the following 16 matches after normal time. At this Olympics so far, Australia is unbeaten, a streak that will not surprise too many. Its only blemish in an otherwise spotless season was a 1-1 draw to Spain.
Australia trounced a solid German team 3-1 in the semifinal to set up this clash with Belgium. “The Aussies were more effective in both circles,” Germany captain Tobias Hauke said. “If you lose the game in this style, it’s really hard, that is why there are tears.” That victory was preceded by a 3-2 win against Netherlands in overtime in the quarterfinal.
Like Australia, Belgium too has remained unbeaten during this tournament and is currently second in the world rankings. Alexander Hendrickx has led the scoring among all teams at this tournament so far. He also helped Belgium beat India 5-2 in the semifinal after trailing 2-1 early in that clash.
“In the end, the opportunities that we created were enough to win the game,“ Hendrickx said. His drag flicking, particularly from penalty corners, was an influential reason for Belgium’s stellar offensive comeback in that match.
Betting Pick: Australia +110
This is basically an EVEN-money contest considering how close these teams are to each other. Australia, apart from recent head-to-head form, seems to have the defensive depth to stave off a belligerent Belgium attack. Simply put, Australia is never beaten easily, in any sport. That has certainly translated into hockey field as well, evident in enviable recent form at the Olympics. In a gold-medal match, Australia might just be the better team to back.
This USA women’s team in a bronze-medal match is a surprise on its own. With respect to other teams, the USA has been so dominant in soccer that this outcome seems a little like the USA basketball team back in 2004. That campaign ended in a bronze medal for USA as well. With that information, it seems fair that the Americans are heavy favorites to beat Australia in this match to at least take out bronze.
News and Notes
After eliminating Netherlands in thrilling fashion in the quarterfinal, USA just did not have enough offensive depth against Canada in the semifinal, eventually losing 1-0. The Americans have just been off the pace at this tournament. They started with a 3-0 loss to Sweden before storming back to beat New Zealand 6-1.
Just when their style of play returned, the USA women were held to a goalless draw by Australia before a 2-2 draw against Netherlands. Only a strong defensive display in the penalty shootout confirmed their participation in the medal matches.
“Not our best game, not our best tournament,” Megan Rapinoe said after the match. “It’s a bitter one to swallow, obviously we don’t want to lose to Canada. We just couldn’t figure it out on the field. I don’t know exactly what it was but, yeah, but this certainly not one of our better performances.”
Australia has followed an eerily similar path to this bronze-medal match. They were also beaten by Sweden but defeated New Zealand in the first two matches of the tournament. Then came a 0-0 draw against the USA before a 2-2 draw against Great Britain. After qualifying to the semis, Australia was also beaten by a 1-0 scoreline. The only difference between these two teams has been goal differential.
Samantha Kerr has led the scoring for Australia with five goals and an assist. She is also fourth in the tournament in goals scored. If Australia is to have an opportunity in this match, Kerr will be the pivotal weapon through which most offensive plays go.
Betting Pick: To win bronze: USA (-300)
With respect to Australia’s solid campaign at the Olympics, there is still a large gulf in skill and quality between these two teams. The Americans have massively underachieved at Tokyo, which is certainly atypical at the very least. There is still a medal at stake, which will be incentive enough for them to find one last push amid some apparent form issues in the final third. Australia might not be the best team to capitalize on those but the USA is well positioned to pounce.