• Sunday Aug 12, 2012

    Gold gives Mexico invincible belief

    By Michael Lewis


    LONDON - To hear Mexico's players, an Olympic gold medal isn't the last thing on their agenda.

    The title from the London Games has given the country a feeling of soccer invincibility.

    "This generation is awesome. It has won everything they've played," said Oribe Peralta, hero of Saturday's 2-1 victory over Brazil with both goals. "It's a feeling that lets you get used to victory, prove that you can beat anyone."

    In the past 14 months, Mexico has won the Under-17 World Cup for the second time, finished third in the U-20 World Cup, and won the Pan-American Games. And that doesn't even include CONCACAF titles in the Gold Cup and U-17 Championship.

    "Our youngsters look towards the future more optimistically," Mexico Olympic team manager Luis Fernando Tena said. "They have left behind the old complexes. They look towards the future like conquistadors.

    "It's a very important moment for Mexican football. It's a great moment for us. Our youngsters have developed great mental strength and our football is improving considerably."

    That new mentality came in the form of confidence.

    "It's true the world thinks of Brazil as a football superpower, but we knew we could beat them," said defender Diego Reyes, the team's youngest player at 19-years-old.

    "We have a great team spirit and mentality. We are courageous and common effort allowed us to win. I think Mexico is being recognized more and more as a great football nation in the world."

    What made the Mexico's Olympic run even more noteworthy was that every player Tena used in the final against Brazil competes for a club in Mexico, as opposed many of the Brazilians who play in Europe.

    Mexico's depth was demonstrated by the ability to replace Giovani dos Santos, who injured his right hamstring in the semifinals and had to sit out the final.

    That void on Saturday was filled by Peralta, whose two goals - including the first after only 29 seconds - provided all the offense Mexico needed.

    "I don't know if this was the best match of my career, but what I do know is that this is the most important because I am here today with a gold medal," Peralta said.

    "I dreamed about this moment. It is one of those things you don't get to live every day."

    But it's a "thing" that one gets the feeling Mexico believes can become a habit.

    "It's something I cannot describe in words," defender Hiram Mier said. "Mexico has changed a lot in football. I think from now on there are more wins."

    But for the moment, Mexico just wanted to bask in the glare of a shiny disk.

    "This is incredible," said defender Carlos Salcido, who along with Peralta and goalkeeper Jesus Corona comprised the overage veterans of the team. "It's a very emotional moment that none of us will ever forget. I have already bitten the medal and I can tell you it's real."

    On Wednesday, Tena said the Mexican Football Federation will honor the Olympic champions at the Mexico-United States international friendly at Azteca Stadium in Mexico City.

    "This is a great emotion for all our country," Tena said. "Mexico will be celebrating on the streets, and also Mexicans living in the USA will be proud to be Mexicans.

    "It is a great honor for a coach to see his players singing the national anthem with gold medals around their necks."

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