Mexico Devastates Brazil In Historic 2-1 Olympic Soccer Final
Mexico shocked Brazil in the Olympic men's soccer final, winning gold 2-1, in a game in which it never trailed. Mexico's Oribe Peralta scored just 29 seconds into the game, after pouncing on a turnover to scorch a ball that tracked low and bounced to elude goalkeeper Gabriel.
With that, Mexico scored the quickest goal in Olympic history (according to FIFA) and took control of the match at London's Wembley Stadium.
Both of Mexico's goals were scored by Peralta, whose nickname is "El Cepillo" ("The Brush"). And he brushed away the Olympic hopes of Brazil, for whom a late goal by Hulk did nothing to take away the sting of defeat.
It is the first gold medal for Mexico at the London Games, and the country's first gold ever in Olympic soccer. Prior to Saturday, Mexico's Olympic delegation had won a total of three silver medals and two bronze in Britain.
Now they're celebrating in Mexico, where thousands of fans took to the streets to celebrate the historic victory. Hundreds of police officers have been called up to reinforce security in Mexico City.
Brazil had been a steady scoring machine in the London Games, putting three goals on the board in every match it played until Saturday. The team's Leandro Damiao finished the tournament with six goals, the most of any player. His teammate Neymar had three goals.
But none of that helped in the final, when Mexico's early strike put Brazil on its heels. And el Tri stayed aggressive, scoring again in the 75th minute when Peralta headed in a free kick. By the time Hulk scored in stoppage time, the match was all but decided. For Mexico, a late scare came when Brazil's Oscar got loose to head a crossing pass from Hulk toward the goal — but just wide and high of the net.
It was the story of the match for Brazil, which failed to capitalize on the few chances allowed by Mexico's stingy defense and goalkeeper Jose Corona. Brazil had 19 shots, to Mexico's 12, and controlled the ball for 60 percent of the match. The two teams also collected five yellow cards — three for Mexico, and two for Brazil.
In Olympic soccer, teams fill their rosters with players who are 23 and younger; they're also allowed to bring three players who are older than that age limit. Mexico's Peralta, for instance, is 28; Hulk is 26. But despite not bringing its senior squad, Brazil's team is still loaded with talent. Damiao is 23, for instance. And the megastar Neymar is only 20.
So, it will probably be a long time before Brazilian coach Mano Menezes — who also coaches the national team — finishes answering questions about his decisions in Britain. He didn't start one his megastars, Hulk, instead opting to bring him in late in the first half.
Brazil had reached the finals with a 3-0 win over South Korea — the same team Mexico played to a 0-0 draw during group play. The Brazilians suffered their first defeat in the gold medal match.
Despite its storied history, Brazil has never won an Olympic gold medal in soccer. Today's Olympic final was the country's first in 24 years. The team is sure to face even more pressure in 2016, when Rio hosts the Summer Games.
Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.