Olympic Football 2012: Brazil Clear Favourites to Beat Mexico in Final
Brazil are one match away from snapping one of the most surprising trophy droughts in football.
The most successful international team in the history of the sport face Mexico at Wembley on Saturday bidding to win their first ever Olympic title.
While the odd format of the tournament—squads must consist of only players aged under 23, save for three designated overage players—leads to relative indifference from many other major football nations, for five-times world champions Brazil, it has become an obsession.
Both of their neighbours and biggest rivals, Uruguay and Argentina, have won the tournament twice, making Brazil's duck in the competition all the more glaring.
That is why, at the Beijing Games in 2008, former World Player of the Year Ronaldinho was drafted in with the explicit brief of leading the Seleccao to their first gold medal in either the men's or women's tournament. That dream was ended on the semifinals by Argentina, who went on to retain their title.
This summer, with the Albiceleste failing to qualify for London and Spain, Uruguay and hosts Great Britain all eliminated, Brazil have never had a better chance of filling the last remaining gap in their honour roll.
Make no mistake—they have thrown the kitchen sink at this competition.
In addition to some of the most impressive young attacking talents in the world game—Neymar, Lucas Moura, Oscar, Leandro Damiao—their three overage players are no slouches either.
Left-back Marcelo has just won La Liga with Real Madrid, central defender Thiago Silva has just joined Paris Saint-Germain in one of the biggest deals of the summer and Porto's striker Hulk is among the most mentioned names in this transfer window.
Managed by the boss of the senior side, Mano Menezes, Brazil have set about justifying their status as pre-tournament favourites in emphatic style.
Their 3-0 win over South Korea in the semifinals kept up their record of scoring three goals in each of their five matches at London 2012. Leandro Damiao's brace in that game at Old Trafford made him the competition's top scorer with six goals. Brazil have reached the final with a 100 percent record.
All signs point to a victory for the nation which will host the next Olympic Games as well as the World Cup in two years' time.
For Mexico to break Brazilian hearts at Wembley would be a big upset, though not impossible.
In fact, El Tri beat the Seleccao when the senior sides met back in June, with goals from Giovano dos Santos and Javier Hernandez sealing a 2-0 win in a friendly in Arlington, Texas. It was no dummy Brazil side, either, as virtually all of their best players in the Olympic squad featured in the fixture.
Hernandez has not been allowed to compete in the London Games by his club, Manchester United, but Giovani and several other members of that Mexico are the Olympics.
Aside from a 0-0 draw in their opening game—nothing to be ashamed of considering the Asian side's stingy defensive record before they were undone by Brazil—Mexico have won all of their subsequent four matches en route to the final and will feel confident about causing a shock which would land them their first Olympic football gold.
Brazil enter the final as clear favourites, but they have twice before reached this stage and fallen short—in the 1984 Games in Los Angeles and again four years later in Seoul.
Victory would complete their glorious collection of championships, and instill a winning culture among this absurdly talented new generation of players they have produced that will carry them into the next World Cup and beyond.
Defeat for Brazil, and with it another silver medal, is almost unthinkable.
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