KEIR RADNEDGE in LONDON: Mexico’s players coaches celebrated “a great moment” in their country’s sporting history after winning Olympic Games for the first time.
El Tri defeated runaway favourites Brazil 2-1 in front of an 86,000-plus crowd at Wembley to land the first-ever major international title.
Mexico have won the regional central and North American Gold Cup on nine occasions as well as two World Youth Cups and one Confederations Cup but, in the World Cup, have only ever reached as far as the quarter-finals.
On that basis winning the Olympics on their first appearance in the final outranks anything else though coach Luis Fernando Tena did not feel qualified, in the euphoria of golden glory, to take a cool perspective.
He did concede, however, that it was “a great moment for Mexican football” which would spark a national fiesta and, interestingly, hand Mexicans in the United States a reason for particular pride.
Tena said: “This is a great moment for all of us not only because our young players have developed a great mental strength but because they showed that our football can improve further.
“Mexicans will be partying and celebrating this victory and it’s also great for all Mexicans in the United States to be Mexicans today.”
Describing his emotions in victory, Tena added: “It’s hard to put into words the great joy and happiness for a coach to see his players singing the national anthem with Olympics gold medals around their necks. We’re extremely proud to have achieved this for the first time in history.”
Tena paid tribute to the all-round contributions of his over-age players goalkeeper-captain Jose Corona, anchor man Carlos Salcido and two-goal match-winner Oribe Peralta.
“We have some great young players,” said Tena, “but they needed the support and help of the older players as well as our technical staff. They set an example of how to withstand pressure, not to be jealous of each other and develop the necessary mental toughness as individuals and as a group.”
That mature approach was demonstrated by outstanding centre back Diego Reyes, still only 19, in both stifling Neymar and then summing up the level of the Mexicans’ achievement.
Reyes said: “The world thinks of Brazil as a world football super power with wonderful players but we knew we could beat them and become Olympic champions. We have a great team with great team spirit and unity. Mexico is being recognized more and more, at last, as a great football nation.”
They also have a remarkably-mined Olympic gold to prove the point.
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