Mexico Olympic Soccer Team 2012: What El Tri's Victory over Japan Means

Karla Villegas Gama@karlitsvFeatured ColumnistAugust 7, 2012

Mexico Olympic Soccer Team 2012: What El Tri's Victory over Japan Means

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    History, there's no other word to describe Mexico's performance against Japan. The squad has matured and it reached the gold-medal match, something no other Mexican team had done before.

    The Olympic Tri, as it was dubbed by local media, has given the country one of the happiest moments in sports. Now, the squad face Brazil in the final showdown.

    Let's find out what this accomplishment really means.

A Historical Episode

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    August 7th, 2012, that's the day when El Tri reached the final match of the Olympic tournament for the first time.

    In 1968, when Mexico hosted the event, the team battled for the bronze medal, which it lost to Japan. Then in 1996 with an under-23 squad, El Tri reached the quarterfinals, but they lost to the group that claimed the title later: Nigeria.

    Next Saturday, Mexico will grab a silver or gold medal, something no other Mexican team has done in the Olympics.

    In 1900 the polo team claimed the bronze; 36 years later in Berlin, they repeated the feat and the basketball squad did the same.

    The last time a Mexican team got on the podium was in London 1948, when the equestrian group won the bronze in eventing.

Sport over Business

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    The local tournament (Liga MX) started July 20 with the Apertura. Three dates have been held so far. Different from other events, in which clubs don't lend their players, this time agents, coaches and executives decided to put sport before business.

    The Liga MX is the most watched tournament in the country; the football matches usually have more ratings than some telenovelas and TV shows, according to IBOPE.

    There are a lot of sponsors both from teams and Liga MX itself, plus TV endorsements.

    However, the clubs decided to send their players to London, no matter if they were cornerstones for the Apertura: Oribe Peralta (Santos), Marco Fabián (Chivas) and José de Jesús Corona (Cruz Azul) to name some.

The Birth of New Figures

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    This team has showed us that there are a lot of talented players. Many of them will become tomorrow’s top footballers.

    Marco Fabián is one of the most gifted of the pack. He has not scored as many goals as he did at the Toulon Tournament, but he has adjusted to his new role as a midfielder that creates plays rather than finishing them.

    He understands what Fernando Tena wanted him to do: unbalancing the defense and supplying balls to Peralta and dos Santos.

    When a player does his job this way, knowing that he may not shine as much as his teammates, a star is born.

    Hiram Mier is another interesting footballer. His toughness and passion are impressive for a 22-year-old. If he keeps up with the good performances he will become a regular with the senior squad.

The Culmination of a Year's Work

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    The preparation began a year ago when Luis Fernando Tena took an under-22 team to the Copa América.

    In that tournament, Mexico was eliminated in the group stage; a tough blow that brought criticism from fans and media.

    However, Tena kept his cool and made some adjustments before the Pan American Games. The hopes were high for El Tri and they responded in-style. Mexico won four matches and tied one to grab the gold medal for the fourth time.

    In 2012 the players traveled to France for the Toulon Tournament. They defeated Morocco and Belarus, and lost to France to advance to next stage, where they knocked down the Netherlands to reach the last game, where they beat Turkey.

    Mexico hoisted the champion’s trophy for the first time, but more than that, El Tri showed the world what it was really made of.

The Goodbye of Key Players

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    Carlos Salcido has given a lot to Mexico. His performance over the years has been superb. His dribbling skills, speed and endurance have made him one of El Tri's finest defenders.

    But in the last three matches Salcido hasn't been his old self. At age 32, the Tigres footballer seems to be tired and hasn't made a real difference apart from the opening match against South Korea.

    With a bunch of youngsters taking their first steps toward stardom, Salcido may be a good leader in the dressing room, but not as much as he used to be on the pitch.

    Maybe it’s time for him to welcome the new kids on the block.

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