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Sunday, August 12, 2012

Gold Medal: The Ascent of Mexico

Photo credit: AP

The Mexican U-23 Olympic team won what no other Mexican team had one before: a gold medal at the Olympics. This occurs on the trail of two impressive wins in the U-17 and U-20 World Cups. This is a well of talent rising over the competition and right now they are poised for even greater achievements.

There are a few particulars with this win, if we're to play devil's advocate. It can be argued that the Aztecas won only one game of consequence against a competitive team: Brazil. Getting through a group consisting of South Korea, Switzerland and Gabon would not be difficult for a talented Mexican U-23 squad. The quarterfinals against Senegal and semifinal against Japan also didn't put them into contact with more experienced teams like Great Britain, Spain, Uruguay. And yes, all three of those didn't quite make it far either. And yet, as we know now more than ever, in the Olympics all bets are off.

Tena's Mexico team did what it needed to do. It got an impressive 29-second goal to get the match started in the first minute, continued to pressure and held a strong line against the likes of Rafael, Neymar and Hulk, and wasn't shy in their counters. Oribe Peralta showed why he's a rising star and he buried Brazil with the second goal late in the game. 

If the United States had a breakout tournament and game against Spain in the 2009 Confederations Cup, then today Mexico proved they have the talent to make history in world soccer. And although this may have been a junior squad, the fact that their developmental teams have won the recent major tournaments is sure to be turning a few heads. The senior team can now capitalize on players like Peralta, Dos Santos, and add Chicharito Hernandez and Barrera to the mix. Suddenly Mexico looks like a team that can reach the semifinals at the World Cup, or maybe even the final. Mexico have proven that they are now the contenders that this soccer nation has always wanted to be and always knew it could become.

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