Manchester United’s two Olympics representatives kicked off their campaigns today.
Eric Bailly and Amad Diallo both started as the Ivory Coast played their opening game in Tokyo.
The football tournament is underway even though the Olympics does not officially open until this weekend, as it is necessary to fit in all the matches.
The competition is for under-23 teams, with three overage players permitted each, which is where Bailly fits in.
Ivory Coast began against Saudi Arabia, a match which should be the easiest of the three matches. Brazil and Germany lie in wait in their group.
Off to a good start
An early victory with a 2-1 win sets Ivory Coast up well for those two difficult group matches.
Amad found it tricky to get involved in the first half, with most of Ivory Coast’s success coming down the left and he was out on the right wing.
Ivory Coast’s opening goal came from the left side when a cross from Max Gradel was turned in for an own goal. Saudi Arabia equalised minutes later with a shot from the edge of the box which Eric Bailly could do little about.
Amad found himself drifting into more of a central role to get more involved as the game went on.
Ivory Coast hit the bar in the second half as they pushed for an equaliser. Minutes later Amad helped make the breakthrough.
A driving run into the box saw Amad beat two opponents and evaded a third before making an incisive pass to Franck Kessie. The AC Milan midfielder turned and shot low into the net.
It had been a very quiet game for Amad up until that point, and it would not have been a surprise to see him substituted. Thankfully he was kept on and came up with his moment of magic to turn the game.
That is what you will get with Amad. At just 18, he is not always taking over games for 90 minutes at a time, but he will pop up with moments of quality which can influence matches. This was like his Premier League debut against Leicester when he showed moments of quality and set up Mason Greenwood for his goal.
Amad got more dangerous as the game opened up after that. He saw a cross diverted by the goalkeeper and then had a shot from the edge of the box saved.
This was Amad’s first game of football in over six weeks, since his last Ivory Coast international appearance.
The match was an ideal confidence booster for him heading into the next two.
Eric Bailly went down injured in the 80th minute, as he tends to do, but completed the full 90 minutes and made an important block late on to divert a goalbound effort. Amad was substituted in the 90th minute as the Ivory Coast looked to protect their lead and run down the clock.
The goal medal hopes of the Manchester United are alive and well, for now.
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