Brazil heartbreak as Mexico upset the party to take football gold at Wembley
Brazil 1 Mexico 2
For once the Mexican wave was not out of place at a British ground today but by the end of the Olympic football final, thousands of Brazilian followers in the near-capacity crowd were in no mood to join in.
Those who had not walked out before Hulk's late goal offered brief hope of a reprieve simply sat stunned at their team's latest unsuccessful attempt to win the gold medal. Instead Mexico, playing patiently and making the most of their opportunities, won not only their first football title but a first gold of these Games.
With Tottenham's Giovani dos Santos injured, they fielded an unregarded side composed entirely of players from the domestic league. Only the name of Carlos Salcido, winner of more than 100 full caps, and once of PSV Eindhoven and Fulham, stirred any recognition. Brazil in contrast had representatives of clubs like Real Madrid, Manchester United, Milan and Paris Saint-Germain and a substitutes' bench including Alexandre Pato, Hulk and Lucas Moura. Much good did it do them. Shaken by conceding a goal in the opening 30 seconds - only Everton's Louis Saha has ever scored a quicker one in the new stadium - the overwhelming favourites did not regroup with any conviction until the last quarter of an hour before half-time.
Dominant on either side of the interval, they then paid for the defensive laxity that so often seems to go hand in hand at all levels with the country's exciting attacking. Oribe Peralta, one of Mexico's over-age players, scored his second goal and not until Britain's representative Mark Clattenburg was about to usher in a short period of added time did Hulk's shot suggest the Mexicans could be denied. There was just time for Chelsea's new £25 million acquisition Oscar to miss with a header that will haunt him for the rest of his career. The equally heralded Neymar was more involved throughout, though to no greater effect. All in all it was no dish, Mexican or otherwise, to set before the 71 year-old Pele, who had travelled specially for the game.
So it was a shame-faced Brazilian squad that returned from the dressing-room for the medal ceremony, looking as if they would rather be anywhere else. Five times their country has won the World Cup, but never the Olympics. Those who feel that hardly matters should listen to Mano Menezes, coach to both teams, who will now fear for his job. “We all know that we need to win the gold,” he had said before the game. "Brazil has to win every tournament it plays, it needs to win every match it plays, even if it’s a friendly - and this time even more."
His side had scored three goals in every previous game, though the five conceded hinted that this was a Brazilian defence no more secure than normal. That much was confirmed as early as the 28th second of the final. The goal stemmed from a bad error by United's Rafael, who tried to play the ball inside from the touchline, finding it snapped up and pushed forward by Javier Aquino. Peralta, unmarked, was sufficiently alert to squeeze a low shot between goalkeeper Gabriel and the near post. The more unforgiving Brazilian supporters booed Rafael when he was later substituted and when he received his silver medal; a fate that was spared the even more unpopular Fifa president Sepp Blatter, who wisely kept a low profile during the ceremony.
If Mexico made scarcely another chance in the first hour, they pressed so effectively and worked so hard that Brazil did not threaten either until the last ten minutes of the opening half. The favourites' revival began with the introduction of Hulk, the Porto forward, for his club-mate Alex Sandro. Taking up a position of the right of midfield and cutting inside to good effect, he immediately hit a fearsome effort from 30 yards that the goalkeeper Jose Corona only just kept out.
Brazil finished the half with attempts by Marcelo, the ever adventurous Real Madrid left-back, Romulo and Neymar and early in the second period Neymar was close twice more. Suddenly, however, the focus of attention switched as Brazil's Achilles heel was left exposed. Fabian aimed one arrow at it, courtesy of a howler by the £30m defender Thiago Silva, hitting the bar; Peralta would have scored had he not carelessly strayed offside; Fabian headed too high from a corner. In the 75th minute, with the Brazilians arguing among themselves, Fabian took a disputed free-kick on the right and Peralta easily lost his marker to head in unattended.
When it seemed too late to matter, Hulk ran through to score on his weaker right foot; then he crossed for Oscar, unmarked, to head wide from five yards. It was an inglorious end to a forgettable day for football's most revered nation.
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