By Henry Okonkwo
Mexico defeated France by 4-1 on Thursday in the men’s Olympic football event in Japan while reigning champions Brazil beat Germany in a six-goal thriller.
Coach Sylvain Ripoll’s French team are competing for their first Olympic medal since winning gold in 1984 but collapsed in the second half at Tokyo Stadium.
Mexico took the lead less than two minutes into the second half through Alexis Vega, before Sebastian Cordova doubled their advantage in the 55th minute.
The 35-year-old captain Andre-Pierre Gignac, whose last game for the French senior team was the Euro 2016 final loss to Portugal, pulled one back from the penalty spot with 21 minutes remaining.
But any thoughts of a comeback were quashed as Uriel Antuna and Eduardo Aguirre netted late on for 2012 champions, Mexico.
France now faces a tough task to get out of Group A with a top-two finish, ahead of games against South Africa on Sunday and hosts Japan on July 28.
“The first thing we now have to do is digest this disappointment,” added Ripoll. “We only have two days. There’s no time to waste.”
In other matches, Japan saw off South Africa, who had two players test positive for COVID-19 on Sunday, 1-0 thanks to Takefusa Kubo’s second-half strike.
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Brazil, who won gold for the first time when inspired by Neymar on home soil five years ago in Rio, defeated Germany 4-2 in a dramatic match which saw forward Richarlison net a first-half hat-trick.
The Everton man scored three times inside the first half an hour, but Matheus Cunha missed a penalty and Germany then threatened an unlikely second-half comeback.
Bayer Leverkusen’s Nadiem Amiri pulled one back before the hour mark, and although Maximilian Arnold was sent off shortly afterwards, substitute Ragnar Ache cut the deficit to one goal with seven minutes of the 90 left.
But it was another Leverkusen player, Paulinho, who came off the bench and put the match to bed for Brazil in the fourth minute of stoppage time.
Ivory Coast also picked up three points in Group D after a 2-1 victory over Saudi Arabia.
Spain struggled in Sapporo, as a team featuring six players, who reached the Euro 2020 semi-finals dominated possession but created few chances in a 0-0 draw with Egypt.
Australia took early control in the table, as goals from Lachlan Wales and Marco Tilio saw them beat 10-man Argentina 2-0.
New Zealand made a successful start in Group B as Burnley striker Chris Wood, one of the three over-age players in the squad, secured a 1-0 victory over South Korea in Kashima with his 72nd-minute winner.
An own goal saw Romania edge out Honduras 1-0 in the group’s other game.