Mexico was able to break the 1-1 halftime tie with Japan and advance to the London Olympics men's soccer finals, pulling away toppling its opponent in the end, 3-1.
The first half of the match was a see-saw battle between the two teams, with Japan owning the first 18-or-so minutes of the game, highlighted by Yuki Otsu's 12th-minute goal. Japan's only first-half goal marked Otsu's third of these Olympic Games.
However, that momentum was short-lived for the Japanese, who might have gotten a bit overconfident after scoring the first goal of the contest. In the 20th minute, Marco Fabian just missed putting Mexico on the board, but that possession began the team's offensive assault.
Giovani dos Santos would join his fellow attacker Fabian in putting pressure on the Japanese defense and goalkeeper Shuichi Gonda. Dos Santos just missed the frame of the goal despite having Gonda beat in the 27th minute, but he would make up for the mistake just four minutes later.
Mexico took a corner kick in the 31st minute, when Dos Santos would deliver the ball into Gonda's box and meet the foot of Fabian. The 23-year-old booted the ball into the back of Japan's net for the first time in this Olympic tournament.
Japan's Kensuke Nagai had a chance to give his team the lead five minutes into the second half, but his strike went just over the top of Mexico's goal, and that slight mistake turned out to be crucial. Mexico would make the Japanese pay just 15 minutes later thanks to a precision shot by Oribe Peralta that gave his team a 2-1 lead in the 65th minute.
Japan had several chances in the last 25 minutes, but it was unable to draw even with its opponent despite a valiant effort. Mexico proved to have just too formidable a defense in the second half for the Japanese to break through.
Taka Hirose, Japanese bass guitarist of the band Feeder, tweeted his excitement about today's semifinal match, saying:
Japan! RT @diondublinsdube: Wembley time yet again , Japan Vs Mexico .... I'm slightly in the dark with this one coz haven't seen either tea
— Taka Hirose (@takahirose) August 7, 2012
Journalist Matt Cooper tweeted at Bleacher Report's world football editor and lead writer Will Tidey about the vast amount of Mexican fans aboard his train, stating:
@willtidey Mexico very popular if fans on my train from Birmingham and at Marylebone a guide, Will. Lots of green shirts and sombreros.— Matt Cooper (@MattCooperGolf) August 7, 2012
Grades for Key Players
Shuichi Gonda, Japan: B
Despite giving up his first three goals of the Olympic tournament, Mexico's offensive attack had several chances where it could have put this game away early if it wasn't for Gonda's expert goalkeeping.
He won't get nearly enough credit because of the conceded goals, but the Japanese defense did not look as formidable as it did against Egypt in the previous match. Gonda was tested, and while he didn't put together a shutout, he did keep his nation in the game for almost the entire game.
Mexico's third and final goal in the waning seconds should hardly count against Gonda, who put together a heck of a performance.
Marco Fabian, Mexico: A-
Fabian was the best attacker on the pitch for Mexico in this match, especially after dos Santos was substituted for at the beginning of the second half. He was around the Japanese goal all day long, delivering key passes or shots and even adding a goal for his team.
NBC broadcasters called Fabian the "man of the match" for Mexico, and I couldn't agree more. Mexico's attack wouldn't have had nearly the same amount of quality possessions if Fabian wasn't on the pitch, and he helped his country secure its first ever medal in Olympic-soccer history.
Mexico will take on Brazil—who beat South Korea in the semifinals, 3-0—in the men's soccer gold-medal game, while Japan will play South Korea in the bronze-medal game.