As a flawless record of six consecutive wins, 11 goals scored and only two conceded suggests, Argentina thoroughly deserved to win the Men's Olympic Football Tournament for the second time in four years. And as the fantastic foursome of Juan Roman Riquelme, Javier Mascherano, Sergio Aguero and Lionel Messi explained to FIFA.com, the Albiceleste's 1-0 win over Nigeria was particularly sweet.
Aguero and Messi, footballing twinsFew would dispute that Lionel Messi and Sergio Aguero have a special gift. International roommates off the pitch and soulmates on it, the duo have graduated through the national ranks together. It was no surprise, then, to see them celebrating side by side after the medal ceremony.
The scorer of two goals against Brazil in the semis, the kid they call El Kun was savouring the moment. "The fact is it's a wonderful feeling. I won the U-20 World Cup last year and now this. And to win it with friends like Leo too. I just can't put it into words."
A stock response to winning a title you might think, but having just been congratulated by the one and only Diego Maradona, Aguero's excitement is easy to understand. "It's very special to win this title, especially with Diego being here. He congratulated me and said I'd had a great tournament. You can't ask for any more than that."
For Messi, the most elusive player in the tournament, the gold medal is welcome recompense following the controversy about his participation in the Games. Having finally achieved his Olympic goal, the Barcelona man was happy to let off steam. "People said a lot of things that annoyed me before I came to China, everyone knows that. That's what makes this medal so special. I think Argentina won the gold because we had a fantastic team that really pulled together. You could see that on the pitch."
Heavy emotions for Riquelme and MascheranoThe elder statesmen of the team were no less ecstatic. The 30-year-old captain Juan Roman Riquelme enjoyed a fine tournament, bagging a goal in the 3-0 win over the Brazilians, and exited the Olympic stage in the best possible fashion. "I'm absolutely delighted because this was the last opportunity I had to play in the Olympic Games," he said. "The final wasn't very exciting perhaps but you have to go out and win these games. It's as simple as that. I'll be wearing the medal on the plane home. I won't be taking it off for anyone."
With an Argentina flag draped over his shoulders, a gold medal round his neck and a bunch of flowers in his hand, the smiling playmaker was the picture of happiness. Asked if he wanted to dedicate the win to anyone in particular, Riquelme was unequivocal. "Yes, to the whole team, which has been together for over a month. Even though I was a long way from my family, I never lost sight of our objective and winning the gold is amazing."
One man almost at a loss for words was Javier Mascherano. The tireless central midfielder was a member of the Albiceleste team that triumphed at Athens 2004 and has now become the very first Argentinian to win Olympic gold twice. "This is just incredible," he said with a slightly hoarse voice.
"My daughter wasn't born when I won a gold medal at Athens so I'm going to enjoy this one with her. No matter what happens in my football career from now on, no one can ever take away the pride I feel at achieving something like this, especially in a sport as difficult as football. We won because we played attacking football and we never stopped trying things. And we beat Brazil in the semi-finals. It was the perfect tournament."