Brazil are within touching distance of their long-cherished dream of Olympic gold. Only Mexico stand in their way. Not only will Brazil coach Mano Menezes’ men have the weight of history on their shoulders as they chase the medal their nation craves, they will also have to contend with a Mexico side who are brimming with class and attacking intent. More so, Mexico have nothing to lose in their first ever Olympic final. This is a final made in heaven.
Brazil put three past a very good South Korea side to reach the final and the fact that the Koreans earlier in the competition held the Mexicans to a 0-0 draw is something the Brazilians will take confidence from. It’s only ‘damn lies and statistics’ though as Mexico are very much in this game and have impressed the world with their tactical prowess and discipline through out the tournament.
Indeed this is a very young Mexico side and missing their biggest names that play in Europe, where preseason is well under way, the bulk of their side play in Mexico. Mexico is now reaping the benefits of a long-term plan over the last decade to invest in the national youth system. 2011 was the year the world took notice of what was going on in youth ranks of Mexico when in just a couple of months, they won the U-17 World Cup, and then finished third in the U-20 World Cup.
The Mexican philosophy is to instil tactical awareness and ball skills at the youngest possible age, fitness and conditioning of course, comes much later. This is the vital age when instinct is nurtured and when you look at teams like Spain or Barcellona, you can see that that type of movement and touch can’t be learned after a certain age. It’s simply in you or it isn’t. Every club and national set up in the world is looking at the Spanish youth system, but the Mexicans have stolen a march and if this side is anything to go by they will be a force to be reckoned with when the next World Cup comes around in Brazil 2014.
Which brings us neatly back to the boys in gold and blue. Just take a look at their squad roll call: From Hulk, , Neymar, Oscar, Rafael, Leandro Damiao, Juan Jesus, Thiago Silva, Romulo and Pato and you see how difficult this side will be to beat. They are full of creativity and play football the way Brazilians love to see it played, with joy. They’ve score 3 goals in every game they’ve played in London and after conceding 2 against Egypt (a very useful side), 1 against Belarus and 2 against Honduras looked much more solid at the back against the Koreans.
For all their attacking, though, you can score against them, but with all great attacking sides the philosophy is one of, ‘if you score 3, we’ll score 4’. This side may will be the bare bones of the team that will line up on home soil for the opening match in the Estádio do Morumbi in São Paulo in two years’ time. This could even be a dress rehearsal for the final of that tournament.
The two best sides in the Olympics play each other in the final tomorrow. The key player for Brazil will be Neymar da Silva Santos, last year’s South American Footballer of the Year. The world will be watching the youngster as although all of South America have been raving about him, this will be his first stint in the limelight of the European football stage. For Mexico Tottenham’s Giovani dos Santos looks rejuvenated and although he has struggled with injury he has changed games when he has come off the bench.
By Hugo Mc Cafferty