Mexico are in the Olympic men’s football final after coming from behind to beat Japan 3-1 at Wembley tonight. It was a performance of impressive character, building from a slow start, in which they went behind, before imposing themselves onto the game. Marco Fabian headed the equaliser before Oribe Peralta and Javier Cortes scored, delivering Mexico to the final match on Sunday night.
This called on all of Mexico’s mental strength, given Japan’s superior start. They moved and combined well for the first 15 minutes, rightly taking the lead. Takahiro Ohgihara passed to Keigo Higashi who found Otsu. Setting himself up with a perfect touch, 20 yards from goal, Otsu drove the ball into the far top corner.
Mexico had not started to play yet, and their attacking play was too dependent on long hopeful balls. It took half an hour for their first good chance, when a move from right to left ended with Dos Santos stabbing wide from the edge of the box.
It was an improvement and two minutes later they were level. Dos Santos had a corner which was flicked on by Jorge Enriquez at the near post. Marco Fabian wriggled free from Yuhei Tokunaga to head the ball, with little opposition, into the goal.
From there Mexico were dominant. Dos Santos nearly put them ahead when he ran onto Fabian’s pass but chipped the ball just over the cross-bar. Dos Santos had to go off at half-time, replaced by Raul Jimenez.
But Mexico’s momentum did not slow down, as they continued to increase their tempo and make chances against a tiring Japanese side. 20 minutes into the second half Peralta put them ahead, making himself a second chance after not taking a first.
A long ball from midfield found left-back Darvin Chavez, who dragged the ball back from the by-line to Peralta on the edge of the box. Shuichi Gonda saved Peralta’s shot and rolled it out to holding midfielder Ohgihara. He dallied, though, Peralta stole it back, and this time was perfect, shooting into the far top corner beyond Gonda’s reach.
The game was won but there was time for one last goal in stoppage time to confirm it. Japan failed to deal with a long ball, which Cortes, just on as a substitute, won. He exchanged passes with Peralta before running unchallenged at goal and shooting underneath Gonda, sending Mexico back to Wembley.