Mexico ended their wait for an Olympic medal at the Men’s Olympic Football Tournament in the best possible way at Wembley Stadium as their 2-1 victory over Brazil gave them gold, with Santos Laguna striker Oribe Peralta the hero of the hour.
His two goals, one in each half, condemned Brazil to yet another silver medal finish, equalling their achievements in the Los Angeles and Seoul Olympics.
The game was played in front of a crowd of 86,162, ensuring a new record aggregate attendance of 1,525,134, which surpassed the previous record set in Los Angeles back in 1984.
The carnival atmosphere continued, for the Mexican fans at least, when they went ahead after just 29 seconds. It was the fastest goal of London 2012 and one of the quickest which this historic stadium has witnessed.
Rafael dwelt on the ball and was chased down by Marco Fabian. The Manchester United full-back’s pass to Thiago Silva was intercepted by Javier Aquino, who slipped the ball into the path of Oribe Peralta, who had the time and space to fire a shot from the edge of the box which nestled beyond Gabriel’s dive and inside the near post.
Brazil were struggling to create clear-cut chances against a hard-working, well-organised Mexico midfield, with Chivas’ Jorge Enriquez particularly in fine form. Silva headed a free-kick over the bar and Oscar’s turn and shot went straight at Jose Corona.
Such was Mano Menezes’ frustration that he made an early tactical switch, with Hulk replacing Alex Sandro in the 32nd minute. Yet it was Mexico who looked more cohesive in attack. A fine move down the left saw Aquino set up Carlos Salcido, who fired a warning shot across the face of goal from the edge of the box.
Brazil’s best chance of the half came out of nothing when Hulk picked up the ball 35 yards from goal, ran forward and hit a powerful long-range effort which forced a save from Corona.
The Mexico goalkeeper then had to be alert to scramble the ball clear to deny the onrushing Leandro Damiao. The shot appeared to hand Brazil some momentum as, before half-time, both Marcelo and Neymar fired narrowly wide as the South Americans finished the half on a high.
The opening minutes of the second half were played almost exclusively in the Mexican half as Brazil came out full of intent to grab an equaliser. Once again it was Neymar who had the best two chances after the restart, shooting narrowly over from 25 yards and then denied by a brave save from Corona.
However, the Santos star was guilty of missing a golden chance when he blasted the ball over from close range after being supplied by Oscar inside the box.
A Seleção were committing so many players forward that a Mexico counter-attack was inevitable at some stage. It came when Fabian chased a long ball to force Silva into an error. Bearing down on goal, he was met by the outrushing Gabriel and, after seeing his initial shot blocked, tried a spectacular overhead kick which bounced off the crossbar.
Fabian went close again when he headed the ball narrowly over after Miguel Ponce’s free-kick was flicked on by Enriquez.
The Mexicans made the most of their good spell when they doubled their advantage 15 minutes from time. Fabian swung a perfectly weighted free-kick into the box, Peralta timed his run to perfection and planted a downward header which gave Gabriel no chance.
With time ticking away, it appeared as though the game was heading towards a low-key conclusion until Hulk scored in the opening seconds of added time, keeping his cool to fire low past Corona.
The strike set up a grandstand finish and Oscar should have equalised when his free header from Hulk’s cross went over the bar, reducing Hulk’s goal and Brazil’s silver medal to mere consolations.