Brazil vs. Mexico: Complete Preview for Men's Olympic Gold Medal Match
Wembley Stadium in north-west London becomes the Latin quarter of the capital on Saturday when Brazil take on Mexico in the Olympic men's football final.
Neither side—not even five-time World Cup winners Brazil—has won gold in this event before, so a new champion will be crowned in front of what could be close to a 90,000-capacity crowd at the national stadium.
Brazil are the clear favourites—for reasons I laid out in this article on Thursday—but a first football gold medal for Mexico is not beyond the realms of possibility.
Here is a look at each team's first XI, key player and route to the final.
Brazil Predicted First XI
GK: Gabriel (AC Milan, age 19)
RB: Rafael da Silva (Manchester United, 22)
CB: Thiago Silva (Paris Saint-Germain, 27)
CB: Juan Jesus (Inter Milan, 21)
LB: Marcelo (Real Madrid, 24)
DCM: Romulo (Spartak Moscow, 21)
DCM: Sandro (Tottenham Hotspur, 23)
ARM: Lucas Moura
ACM: Oscar (Chelsea, 20)
ALM: Neymar (Santos, 20)
CF: Leandro Damiao (Internacional, 23)
Brazil Players to Watch
Leandro Damiao: All the pre-tournament talk was about Neymar, but this Olympiad was the first time many have got a good look at another highly-rated Brazilian striker. The Internacional player is currently the competition's top scorer with six goals.
Sandro: As well as popping up with a couple of goals, the Tottenham midfielder has done a great job of anchoring the Brazil midfield, striking up a great partnership with Romulo. Both men like to get forward, but they have developed a solid understanding in the centre of the field.
Juan Jesus: The 21-year-old centre-back is playing alongside one of the best in the world in Thiago Silva, and that will only aid his rapid development. He plays at Inter Milan, where a vacancy has just opened up after Lucio, a player many compare Juan to, left for Juventus earlier this summer.
Brazil's Route to the Final
Brazil 3-2 Egypt
Brazil 3-1 Belarus
Brazil 3-0 New Zealand
Brazil 3-2 Honduras
Brazil 3-0 South Korea
Brazil Manager Quotes
Mano Menezes (to FIFA.com)
"I expect a very difficult final. Mexico have prepared well. Their Under-23 side played in the Copa America and the Pan-American Games. Now they have added their three over-aged players they look very strong.
"The [Brazil] players are very calm, not over-euphoric about being in the final. But our team should be congratulated, they have come a long way since May when they were nowhere, and now they are in an Olympic final. It has been 24 years since Brazil have been in the final, which shows how difficult it is to get there."
Mexico Predicted First XI
GK: Jose de Jesus Corona (Cruz Azul, age 31)
RB: Israel Jimenez (UANL, 23)
CB: Diego Reyes (America, 19)
CB: Hiram Mier (Monterrey, 22)
LB: Darvin Chavez (Monterrey, 22)
RM: Javier Aquino (Cruz Azul, 22)
CM: Jorge Enriquez (Chivas Guadalajara, 21)
CM: Hector Herrera (Pachuca, 22)
LM: Carlos Salcido (UANL, 32)
ACM: Javier Cortes (UNAM, 23)
FW: Oribe Peralta (Santos Laguna, 28)
Mexico Players to Watch
Oribe Peralta: With star forward Giovani dos Santos a major doubt for the final with a leg injury, veteran forward Peralta will have to shoulder more of the goal-scoring burden.
The 28-year-old has already delivered for El Tri in London, scoring the only goal in the group-stage win over Switzerland and the vital second in the 3-1 semifinal win over Japan.
Jose Corona: Aside from Team GB's Welsh duo Ryan Giggs (38) and Craig Bellamy (33), corona is the oldest player to be competing in the men's football tournament in London.
The 31-year-old has been to several major tournaments but has always been an understudy. Now is his time to shine, and he will be given plenty of chances to show what he can do against Brazil's fearsome attack.
Mexico's Route to the Final
Mexico 0-0 South Korea
Mexico 2-0 Gabon
Mexico 1-0 Switzerland
Mexico 4-2 Senegal (after extra time)
Mexico 3-1 Japan
Mexico Manager Quotes
Luis Fernando Tena (via The Sun)
"This is special, this is emotional. We’re so happy to have won at least the silver medal.
"But the most important is yet to come.
"We gave our fans great joy and our great nation that loves football must be partying tonight."
"The players have a new mentality, they want to play abroad now, they have no complexes and they want to succeed.
"I'm happy that we've been able to provoke such euphoria in such a soccer-mad country as ours."
Olympic Final Odds
To win gold medal
Leandro Damiao 11/2
Alexandre Pato 5/1
Oribe Peralta 9/1