Mexico will play Brazil at Wembley Stadium on Saturday August 11, 2012 at 10:00 AM EST. The ‘tricolor’ has a very difficult task in front of them because they will face a world power-house who has players like Neymar, Alexandro Pato, Thiago Silva, and Marcelo among others. However, Mexico has played phenomenal, not just in these London 2012 Olympics, but they have a recent trajectory of winning U-23 titles. Under the same coach, Luis Fernando Tena, and under the same base of players, this Mexican squad recently won the Panamerican games in 2011, the Pre-Olympic Qualifier, and the Toulon Tournament. Also, this is questionably the most important match in any category of Mexican soccer history. Yes, Mexico has won multiple Gold Cups, yes Mexico has won two U-17 World Cups, and yes, there is a Confederations Cup under their belt (who they won against Brazil), but Mexico has never played a final with so much significance and with so much of the world watching them. Therefore, considering Brazil’s power and Mexico’s recent success, what does the tricolor need to do to win against the ‘selecao’, and what are their chances?
- Mexico’s best player in this Olympic squad, and arguably the best all around player in the senior squad, Giovani Dos Santos, is out of the final with an injury sustained against Japan in the semifinals. With his 3 goals and 3 assists, he will be a difficult player to replace. However, if Mexico wants to win, Marco Fabian will need to take advantage of the situation and step up. Fabian has had a mediocre tournament with only one goal, but he has the ability and talent to be a goal-scoring machine like he was in the previous U-23 tournaments. He did score the game changing goal against Japan, therefore he could be on his game against Brazil.
- The defense needs to play like they have. This Mexican defense composed of Israel Jimenez, Hiram Mier, Diego Reyes, and Darvin Chavez was a near disaster in the Toulon Tournament prior to the Olympics. It received all kinds of goals but in London they have played as the best defense in the tournament. They did not received any goals in the group stage, however they had a small set back when in the last 20 minutes against Senegal of the quarterfinals they received two quick goals. Against Japan they received a goal after a phenomenal strike but overall it was a great defensive game. This team is very intact in the back-line, the midfield lead by Carlos Salcido plays very compressed to the defense while Mexico also has the best goalie in the tournament in Jose de Jesus Corona. This means that one of the keys to victory against Brazil is for this defense to tighten the spaces against Neymar, Marcelo, and Oscar. Brazil likes to attack on the left side of the field therefore Jimenez will have a difficult time but Mexico can win if they can control the ball in the middle of the field rather than play a conservative game where they wait for Brazil to attack.
- The third key for a Mexican victory against Brazil is for the bench players to work. This area is where Brazil has the upside because they posses subs like Alexandre Pato and Hulk, while Mexico has no real threats in Javier Cortes, and Raul Jimenez. With this is mind, it is still unknown if Hector Herrera will play from the start of the game but if he does not, he will have to take the role of a leader out of the bench. The game will have a close score all throughout meanin- like in basketball- the sixth man, in this case the bench, can be the game changer.
We have 3 keys for a Mexican victory: Marco Fabian will need to play like he did prior to the Olympics in order to replace Giovani Dos Santos, the defense needs to play an intelligent game like they have been, and finally, Mexico’s bench needs to come into the game with a strong winning mentality because the game could be decided in the last minutes. Considering the three keys, what are Mexico’s chances for a win? The mentality of Mexico is very strong, and this is shown because the team has played better game-by-game, including the offense which has scored more than Brazil in the last two matches (the hardest matches) with 7 goals. The major concern is that this team began to play better because Dos Santos got to form and the offense revolved around him. Now Mexico does not have him, and this is a major blow to a team that will need to learn how to play without him. I give the upside in this game to Brazil because like Mexico, Brazil has improved game-after-game, and their squad has enough depth and talent to beat any team on Earth. Mexico will play a hard match, they will play it with quality, and they will give Brazil a fight to remember. However, at the end the best offense will decide the game, and in this case the only way Mexico can win is either if Brazil has a disastrous offensive game, or if Marco Fabian plays the game of his life. Not an easy victory for Brazil, but I find it difficult for Mexico to win the gold.
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