This afternoon Wembley was host to a match between two teams fighting to reach the finals of a major tournament. The match featured two teams struggling to advance by playing enjoyable, attacking football. Needless to say, although hosting, England wasn’t involved in this one. Mexico entered today’s semifinal having scored the most goals in the Olympic competition. Japan had not allowed a single goal through their four matches. This made for an interesting clash and led to some amazing goals.
Japan opened the scoring in the 12th minute. Yuki Otsu blasted a shot into the corner of Mexico’s net from twenty yards out. Mexico’s defenders failed to close down on the ball and left Otsu tons of space to get off a great shot. Jesus Corona could do nothing to stop Japan from taking the early lead.
Mexico, trailing for the first time in the tournament, wouldn’t need much time to draw level. They picked up the pressure and started to thoroughly exert their will on their opponents. A Giovani Dos Santos corner, once again, found the head of Jorge ‘Chaton’ Enriquez who flicked in on to the head of Marco Fabian. Fabian knocked it in and got Mexico on the board in the 31st minute. Apparently, Enriquez can put the ball anywhere he wants with his head; Dos Santos also has a knack for finding his big dome.
The draw would hold until halftime. Despite the score, Mexico easily played out their best half of football in the tournament. They controlled the match in every aspect but the score line. Japan continued to settle for long range shots, but now Mexico was narrowing the gaps for these chances.
The second half play very much resembled that of the first. Mexico exerted their control over the match and would soon do so in a more definitive way. My man, Javier Aquino, came up with a big steal off an unwitting defender. The ball popped free to Oribe Peralta, who performed some a bit of magic. Peralta’s shot was a thing of beauty. It was just about as perfect as it gets. I just finished watching it for the fortieth time, myself.
Mexico limited Japan’s chances to low percentage outside shots. The comeback for Japan looked improbable. For as much work as Jesus Corona got in the quarterfinal with Senegal, today was a breeze. Mexico sealed the victory in stoppage time, when Javier Cortes, who was just subbed on minutes earlier, played off Peralta to get a clear chance on net and finish. Not quite a golazo, but definitely pretty.
Mexico will now face Brazil in the final on Saturday. They have already achieved a first for Mexico in an Olympic football medal. Taking down Brazil to capture the gold is not out of the realm of possibility.