Brazil vs. Mexico: 10 Reasons Why Olympic Gold Medal Match Could Be a Classic
Brazil and Mexico will meet on Saturday August 11 in the Olympic Final of 2012 in a match that football connoisseurs all over the world can hardly wait to see.
The match has all the ingredients one could ask for for any match.
Mano Menezes, armed with the phenom that is Neymar and Brazil's manager for this tournament and for the Brazilian World Cup in 2014, will see his free scoring side go up against one of the meanest defences in the competition when they take on Luis Fernando's in the Olympic set-piece.
Here I look at the top 10 reasons the Olympic Final could be a classic we will remember for years to come.
Read on, and be sure to leave your comments below.
10. Brazil Are Full of Super Heroes!
When you have time, take a flick through Brazil's Olympic squad. There you will find a squad packed with comic-book characters.
From Hulk (Hulk), the obvious starter, to Neymar (Namor), Oscar (Oscar), Rafael (Raphael), Leandro Damiao (Leonardo), Juan Jesus (Jesus), Thiago Silva (Silver Surfer), Romulo (Romulus) and Pato (Knuckles), not to mention the wonderfully and aptly named for a goalkeeper Neto...even if he isn't very good!
9. Brazil's Attack
Brazil has the best attack in the entire competition.
They have scored no less than three goals per game on their way to the final which leaves them with a more-than-healthy 15 goals from five games.
- Brazil 3-2 Egypt
- Brazil 3-1 Belarus
- Brazil 3-0 New Zealand
- Brazil 3-2 Honduras
- Brazil 3-0 South Korea
And while their goal tally is impressive the most important thing to consider about Brazil's attack is not their finishing; it is their creativity.
Throughout the entire team there are players capable of opening up defences with the deftest of touches and none personify this more than Neymar and Oscar. Both players have shown why they are rated so highly and Mexico will have so much to do to contain just these two players that the likes of Sandro, Ganso, Lucas, Leandro Damiao, Hulk and Pato will undoubtedly gain more room as a result.
But whichever way you look at it, Brazil's attacking power is frightening.
8. Mexico's Defence
While Brazil deserve respect for their attacking prowess, there is no doubt that Mexico deserve huge respect for their defensive organisation and discipline.
They have only conceded three goals in their five games so far and went through the entire group stage without conceding a goal.
- Mexico 0-0 South Korea
- Mexico 2-0 Gabon
- Mexico 1-0 Switzerland
- Mexico 4-2 Senegal (aet)
- Mexico 3-1 Japan
El Tri have the best goalkeeper in the competition in their captain Jose Corona and he has been ultra-important during their progress. He has been ably aided by the impressive Hiram Mier, the hugely experienced Carlos Salcido and Darvin Chavez and Israel Jiminez, who has played in the last three games.
With these five at the back, Mexico have proved a tough nut to crack and they will hope for more of the same against Brazil come the final.
7. Mano Menezes
By Brazil manager Mano Menezes' own words, these games are probably the most important Olympic Games of all time for his nation and up to three quarters of his squad will be important members of his Brazil 2014 team.
Speaking to World Soccer Magazine before the tournament he said: "Since I took over I have been going on and on about the importance of the Olympics as a tournament for Brazil, in terms of historical results and as a crucial step for our World Cup plans. Players who are now eligible for London 2012 will form 70 percent of the 2014 squad. These games will be more important than ever for Brazil."
And when you look at the exciting team he has put together for London 2012 you can easily see that Menezes' philosophy on football is as far removed from his predecessor Dunga's philosophy as one could possibly be.
While Dunga's team reflected his own dour defensive demeanour as a player, Menezes has embraced the flair and creativity on offer to him through players like Neymar, Pato, Oscar and Ganso, and has built a platform for them to showcase their phenomenal talents.
They play with the kind of style and panache one would associate with the great Brazil teams of old, but he also has a pragmatic side that recognises when sacrifices have to be made, like Hulk's shocking removal from the semifinal against South Korea.
In him, Brazil have a manager of great thought and reflection and, more importantly, one who can change the course of his team mid-match.
6. Luis Fernando Tena
Like Mano Menezes, his Brazilian counterpart, Luis Fernando Tena also recognises the importance of preparing early for a competition.
For Menezes, he is preparing for 2014, whereas Fernando Tena began preparation for London 2012 way back in 2010.
In a surprising move to many that Mexico entered an Under-23 team in the Copa America in 2011. This unprecedented move drew huge derision from the Mexican media when El Tri were eliminated from the competition in the first round but Fernando Tena had achieved his first target.
His young players had gained vital experience from both the heat of battle on the football pitch and from the ire of the expectant media.
His second target was gold at the Pan-American Games. Having settled on the foundations for his Olympic squad, Fernando Tena experimented and made minor adjustments to the squad that had been knocked out of the Copa America. The result was a gold medal ahead of Argentina and Uruguay, in silver and bronze, respectively.
This win, in what is regarded as a minor FIFA tournament, was huge for El Tri and Fernando Tena because the tournament was held in Mexico and the expectation for a home win was massive.
But having dealt with the pressure of elimination after the Copa America, the win at the Pan American Games was child's play to his developing team.
The next step was in keeping momentum going by entering his team in the prestigious Toulon Tournament at Under-23 level. This competition was huge for El Tri as their U-17 and U-20 teams had both previously won the competition.
The U-23 team duly obliged and on July 1 they won the competition when they beat Turkey U-23 3-0 in the final, thus announcing their firm intention of being Olympic champions.
It all comes down to preparation and Luis Fernando Tena.
5. Brazil's Youth
Brazil's team is built on youth, flair, vitality, intelligence and creativity. They do not know how to shut games down in an Italian-sense or how to claw back games from the dead in a German-sense but they do know how to attack.
And how they attack.
Their counterattacking is rapier-like and is so swift that at times it is almost impossible to keep up with the skill, speed and interchange of movement and their intelligent use of the ball belies their tender age.
If they can play in the final as they have so far, Mexico will need every trick their experienced players can muster to keep Brazil at bay.
4. Mexico's Experience
Luis Fernando Tena has chosen his three over-23 players very, very wisely.
Jose Corona, 31, is the best goalkeeper in the competition and Carlos Salcido, 32, one of the best defenders. Oribe Peralta, 28, has been nothing less than brilliant as he too is one of the best forwards of the Olympiad.
With these three players providing a strong spine for El Tri they have proven very hard to break down and beat. When push comes to shove, Peralta has been just as dangerous in front of goal as any of Brazil's forwards.
3. Giovani Dos Santos
Mexico's most talented player is none other than Giovani dos Santos and London hasn't seen these kind of performances from the Tottenham Hotspur fringe player since he joined the club in 2008.
Since then, the now 23-year-old has featured in just 55 club games. International competition has been something of a respite for the ex-Barcelona prodigy and this tournament has been no different.
Lacking match fitness to a huge degree, Luis Fernando has nursed the forward through London 2012. He was introduced as a late substitute in their opening 0-0 draw with South Korea before being sprung from the bench, yet again, at halftime in game two against Gabon.
However, his impact against Gabon was huge as he waded in with two goals as El Tri recorded their first win of the tournament.
He started the two following games and played every single minute of Mexico's 120-minute battle with Senegal in the quarterfinals where he scored the all-important extra time goal that gave his team one foot in the semis.
With his fitness returning, dos Santos then suffered a muscle injury in the semifinal against Japan and had to be replaced at half time with Fernando sweating on his star players fitness as the final nears.
In short, if Mexico are to win they need dos Santos on the pitch and they need him to shine, just like he did when he scored this incredible goal against Brazil's full international team on June 3 2012.
2. Neymar, Neymar, Neymar
20-year-old Neymar da Silva Santos Junior is without doubt one of the greatest football talents on the planet today.
The 2011 South American Footballer of the Year has the world watching his every move as all the greatest teams in Europe vie for positioning as the 100-meter sprint to capture his signature will ultimately begin as soon as the final finishes.
Before that though he has the small matter and pressure on his slender shoulders of inspiring Brazil to the one football trophy that has evaded the Selecao for over 100 years—Olympic gold.
He has been asked to provide in this tournament by Mano Menezes and Neymar has delivered. In the semifinal against "Nice Korea," he was Brazil's best performer, as expected and as needed, as South Korea applied pressure throughout.
During the competition as a whole, he has had a say in virtually every single one of Brazil's impressive 15-goal haul, where they have scored three goals in each and every single game.
Will he have a say in the final? Current form would suggest an emphatic yes.
1. Both Teams Play Good Football
There can be little doubt that not only are Brazil and Mexico the two best teams in the tournament, but they also play the best football.
Whether their respective managers choose to utilise 4-5-1, 4-4-2, 4-3-3 or 3-5-2 formations, they always play the game in the right manner and the ball is kept on the ground.
There it is caressed, loved and cared for before being used to devastating effect as anyone would expect of the talents on show and more of the same is expected in the final.
A goalfest, 3-2 to Brazil.
You can follow or find me on Twitter at @WillieGannon.