Photo: Jorge Enriquez
Mexico won its first-ever Olympic men’s soccer gold medal Saturday at Wembley Stadium, stunning Brazil 2-1 on the strength of two goals by Oribe Peralta.
Mexico opened the scoring in record fashion, notching the fastest goal ever in an Olympic final at the 29-second mark of the game when Peralta took advantage of a careless pass by Brazilian defender Rafael and snuck the ball past goalkeeper Gabriel.
The favored Brazilians sought to take the initiative after falling behind early, but despite their aggressive mindset they failed to seriously threaten Mexico’s goal and also left themselves vulnerable to counterattacks in the first 45 minutes.
Brazil became more dangerous after halftime, with superstar striker Neymar and midfielder Oscar both playing a larger role in attack. But it was Mexico that had the first golden chance of the second half - a close-range opportunity that Marco Fabian failed to convert.
Fabian, who led and guided his side in the absence of star striker Giovani dos Santos, would later make up for that squandered chance later. In the 75th minute, he sent a perfectly placed free kick to Peralta, who headed it past Gabriel.
Five-time World Cup champion Brazil, which was seeking an elusive soccer gold medal after several near-misses, kept fighting to the end and finally got on the scoreboard in injury time when Hulk received a long pass from Marcelo and rolled a shot out of the reach of Mexican keeper Jose Corona.
The South Americans then had one last opportunity seconds before the final whistle, but when Oscar sent a header just wide of the mark Brazil’s long wait for an Olympic soccer goal medal was extended for at least another four years.
Mexico not only won its first-ever Olympic soccer gold medal but its first medal of any kind in that sport.
“I scored two goals but it wasn’t my (victory) but that of all my teammates. Here we play 11 against 11. The guys gave their all in every ball and every play. This goal medal is a reward for all of us,” Peralta said afterward.
“We made history for Mexico. This gold is a way to say thank you for the support of the people who believed in us and never stopped supporting us,” the striker for Mexican league club Santos Laguna said.
Back home, the soccer victory touched off celebrations across Mexico, with some 10,000 packing the capital’s Paseo de la Reforma thoroughfare.
President Felipe Calderon, for his part, congratulated the team on Twitter, calling its victory a “historic achievement for our country. We’re happy and proud of our squad.”