Mixed results for African football teams as Olympic Games get underway

Franck KESSIE of Ivory Coast celebrates his goal with Zie OUATTARA of Ivory Coast during the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games Group D football match between Ivory Coast and Saudi Arabia at International Stadium Yokohama on July 22, 2021 in Yokohama, Japan. (Photo by Baptiste Fernandez/Icon Sport via Getty Images)

Africa’s sole representative in the women’s Olympic football tournament, Zambia, suffered a chastening defeat in their opening match of the Games going down 10-3 to the Netherlands at the Miyagi Stadium in Miyagi on Wednesday.

Barbra Banda of Zambia celebrates after scoring her sides first goal during the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Football Tournament match between Zambia and Netherlands at Miyagi Stadium on July 21, 2021 in Rifu, Japan (Photo by Pablo Morano/BSR Agency/Getty Images)

Despite the heavy defeat, there was a moment of pride as 21-year-old Barbra Banda scored twice in the final 10 minutes of the match to complete her hat-trick.

The result leaves Zambia rooted to the bottom of Group F with matches against China and Brazil still to come.

Meanwhile, in the men’s tournament, Côte d’Ivoire got off to a brilliant start defeating Saudi Arabia 2-1 at the Yokohama Stadium in Yokohama on Thursday.

AC Milan midfielder Franck Kessie netted the winning goal midway through the second half after Saudi Arabia had drawn level through Salem Al Dawsari shortly before halftime. Côte d’Ivoire had taken the lead six minutes before the break when Abdulelah Al Amri put the ball into his own net.

The win was, however, soured at the end when Aboubacar Doumbia was sent off in the seventh minute of added time.

The Ivoirians lie second in Group D behind defending champions Brazil who thumped Rio 2016 runners-up Germany 4-2.

Two-time fourth-place finishers Egypt held Spain, which boasted the talents of Marco Asensio, Pedri and Dani Olmo, to a goalless draw in Group C. Egypt is joint-second in the group with Spain two points behind Australia who stunned two-time winners Argentina 2-0.

South Africa narrowly lost 1-0 to hosts Japan with Takefusa Kubo netting the only goal of the game 19 minutes from the end of normal time. Mexico leads Group A on goal difference from Japan after defeating France 4-1.

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