Every player dreams of stepping into the limelight on behalf of his country at least once, and for Oribe Peralta, that moment has come. The 28-year-old rates as one of Mexico's chief hopes of overcoming seemingly invincible Brazil in the eagerly awaited final of the Men's Olympic Football Tournament at Wembley on Saturday. However, the Santos Laguna hitman has been forced to wait a long time for his big day.
Peralta, who just missed out on a place in the Mexico squad for the 2006 FIFA World Cup™, has scored two goals in ten senior appearances to date. The greatest triumph of his career came at the 2011 Pan-American Games, where he finished top scorer on six goals and made a huge contribution to Mexico winning the tournament. However, the tricky fox-in-the-box, one of the three overage players in coach Luis Fernando’s squad, could top even that in London if he can inspire his side to a maiden Olympic gold.
“Pulling on a Mexico shirt is unbelievably important to me," the player exclusively told FIFA.com, “it's an honour to represent my country." Nowhere was the player’s commitment and desire more evident than in the 3-1 semi-final victory over Japan, where the Mexicans fought back from going a goal down early on, before Peralta eventually handed them the lead with a stunning long-range effort midway through the second half. The number nine also scored the only goal of the group meeting with Switzerland, ensuring his team would definitely make the quarter-finals.
However, the final hurdle is undoubtedly the highest, as Peralta and company go for an upset against pre-tournament favourites Brazil. “It would be a huge honour for Mexico. But we want it, and we’ll definitely give it everything we have,” said the striker. “Our biggest strength is that we never give up. We’re a very strong team, and we have it in us to beat Brazil. In fact,” he added defiantly, “we can beat anyone!”
Mexico's performances at this edition of the Men's Olympic Football Tournament offer many clues as to why Fernando’s side could yet see off Neymar and his fellow Seleção stars, as El Tri have improved with each of their five matches so far. A collection of individuals has peaked as a unit at just the right time, with impressive defensive discipline and bite in the tackle, variable attacking tactics, and great individual skill both through the middle and down the flanks. Another crucial factor could be the colourful and noisy support from a substantial group of Mexican fans who have loyally tracked their team all the way through the tournament.
“We’re all working very hard together, which is making us better as a team every day and with every match," Peralta informed FIFA.com. The recipe for success is a simple one: “The harder you train, the better your results." The striker, finally emerging from the shadows of the biggest names in Mexican football, comes across as motivated and enthusiastic, but also utterly determined. Having reached what many experts think is the best age for a forward, he has resolved to make history for his country, and achieve a personal breakthrough on the global stage in green and white and red.