THE DAY REPLAYED – Mexico became the first team from the CONCACAF region to reach the final of the Men’s Olympic Football Tournament by virtue of their come-from-behind victory over Japan. They will contest the final at Wembley on Saturday against Brazil, who won silver back in 1984 and 1988, but have never won gold.
Meanwhile, the two Asian sides must battle it out for bronze in Cardiff on Friday evening. Japan have already finished third in an Olympic Tournament, back in 1968, but the South Koreans have fond memories of the Welsh city, having beaten Great Britain there in the last eight.
Goal of the day
Mexico-Japan, Oribe Peralta (65’)
The move began when Carlos Salcido played a wonderful ball to pick out the run of Darvin Chavez on the left wing. The Monterrey defender did brilliantly to keep the ball in play and cut it back to Peralta, who forced Gonda into a good save with a shot from the edge of the box. The Japan keeper then bowled the ball out to Takahiro Ohgihara who panicked under pressure from Javier Aquino. Ohgihara tried to turn away from the danger but instead found Peralta waiting. The forward won the ball back and then hit a sublime right-footed shot out of the blue which nestled in the top corner.
Toreador, en garde!
There have been a few great goal celebrations during London 2012, particularly in the women’s tournament, but the Mexican men proved that they could choreograph a fine routine as well. Following his wonderful goal against Japan, Peralta ran to the bench, fellow players formed a ring around him, and substitute Miguel Ponce charged him like a bull with Peralta acting as the matador. "We have practised the goal celebration and it is dedicated to my son Diego because he likes bulls,” he said afterwards.
For the first 20 minutes of their game against Korea Republic, Brazil struggled to find their rhythm, with the Asians having more of the ball and creating the better chances. Indeed, the majority of the crowd inside Old Trafford appeared to be rooting for the underdogs, but the late arrival of a Brazilian band which follows the team anywhere and everywhere quickly helped turn the tide. The familiar beat of the drums helped the South Americans get into their stride and when Romulo put Mano Menezes’ side ahead, there was no looking back.
Three is a magic number
By virtue of the scoreline in Manchester, Brazil kept up their remarkable run of scoring exactly three goals in every game at London 2012. After group-stage victories against Egypt (3-2), Belarus (3-1) and New Zealand (3-0), they progressed in the quarter-finals with a 3-2 win over Honduras.
Stat of the day
408 – Marco Fabian’s equaliser for Mexico ended Japan’s run without conceding a goal at London 2012, the fourth best in the history of the Olympic Football Tournaments. Argentina currently hold the record with 593 minutes between 1996 and 2008.
"The President of Mexico, Felipe Calderon, has called the players and congratulated them. This is special, this is emotional, but the most important match is yet to come. Is it the best result in Mexico's history? I don't know. But I understand the happiness of Mexico, which is a football country, and they must be partying tonight,” Luis Fernando Tena, Mexico coach.