• Friday Aug 10, 2012

    Brazil stands in Mexico's Olympic path

    By Michael Lewis


    LONDON -- Mexico stands on the cusp of history, 90 minutes away from becoming the first CONCACAF team to win a men's Olympic soccer gold medal. All it needs to do is beat Brazil.

    Beat a Brazil that has won the World Cup five times and every other major men's title except the Olympics. It's only won two silver medals and two bronze.

    "We need to be perfect if we want to win," Mexico coach Luis Fernando Tena said Friday.

    Mexico has never finished higher than fourth - when it hosted the Games in 1968, and it already is guaranteed a silver.

    But Tena won't be satisfied with runner-up status.

    "We already have the silver in our hands," he said, "but we are not content with this. We want to close the tournament going for the gold. We have the wherewithal to do it.

    "Brazil is a wonderful team. They are favorites. Yesterday I was reading [that Las Vegas] was taking bets against Mexico in favor of Brazil in huge margins. Mexico has a strong team and we trust ourselves."

    El Tri will have to trust itself without its best player at the Summer Games -- forward Giovani dos Santos, who is out with a muscle tear in his thigh. Dos Santos, who plays for Tottenham in the English Premier League in this city, has scored three goals (tied for third in scoring) and set up two others.

    "Unfortunately, Giovani, who is a great player, will not be able to play," Tena said. "He has played at a very high level.

    "He had dreams of playing in this game. He is sad. It is painful for him, the players and the team. But we have a very strong team that can overcome adversity."

    Despite much prodding Tena is not disclosing Dos Santos' replacement.

    "You will find out an hour before the match," he said. "We have thought about it and come to a decision and prepared. But I would rather put some mystery into this thing."

    There is no mystery that the players are not just playing for themselves, but for Mexicans back home.

    "We are very happy to do this for the Mexican people," he said. "We are trying to give pleasure and emotion and spiritual needs for those following the Mexican team. These things are so much needed by Mexicans right now."

    Mexico has enjoyed success against Brazil - winning three of their last five meetings -- at the senior level.

    "They are a great team," Brazilian forward Neymar said. "They have been together for a long time and it will be a tough game. They have great players but so do we. We have prepared well and hopefully we can show on Saturday that we are the winners."

    Like most Brazilian teams, this one has many weapons. Leandro Damiao leads all scorers in the men's competition with six goals, but this team lives and dies by the creative ability of Neymar.

    "We do worry about Neymar but we haven't thought about personal marking. We think about zones," Tena said. "They have huge players, not just Neymar. They have Oscar, Rafael and Marcelo."

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