Men’s Olympic Football Tournament
- Oribe Peralta reflects on Mexico’s London 2012 triumph
- He offers some advice for his nation’s forthcoming Olympians
- Peralta discusses seeing elite athletes in the Olympic Village
Mexico had high expectations heading into the Men’s Olympic Football Tournament London 2012. To the delight of their fans, El Tri boasted a new breed of young players with a winning mentality and experience of succeeding on the big stage, having won the FIFA U-17 World Cup™ in 2011 and finished third at the FIFA U-20 World Cup™ later that year.
Though the Mexicans lost their final two London 2012 warm-up matches, to Spain and Japan, and the path to the final at Wembley an arduous one, they were full of hope as they went into their Olympic campaign. It began with a goalless draw against Korea Republic and only got better from there.
“Looking back on that amazing achievement, which was a few years ago now, you still have the satisfaction of saying, ‘We did it, even though lots of people didn’t believe in us’,” Oribe Peralta, a prominent member of that gold-medal-winning team, told FIFA.com. “We achieved something huge for Mexico and for ourselves too.”
After advancing from the group phase and disposing of Senegal in the quarter-finals and Japan in the semis, Mexico beat Brazil 2-1 in the gold-medal match, Peralta scoring both goals to secure Olympic glory for the men in green.
“The second goal was the standout, no question,” he said. “It was amazing because we’d worked on that move for a long time but never had the chance to use it. We didn’t get it right in training that often either.
“It really calmed our nerves, though. They were piling on the pressure, but that goal made us feel like the gold medal was close. It had a massive impact on my career. I got a huge amount of satisfaction from playing for Mexico in any international tournament, but to be one of the first players to win gold for Mexico meant so much.”
Nearly ten years on from that maiden gold, Mexico are about to embark on another Olympic adventure. Though Peralta will not be involved at Tokyo 2020, a good number of his young Guadalajara team-mates played big roles in steering Mexico through the Concacaf qualifying competition. His advice for the likes of Uriel Antuna, Jose Juan Macias and Alexis Vega was simple.
“Enjoy it,” he advised. “You don’t get many opportunities to experience something like this, so they should go out there and enjoy it. It’s important not to have any expectations and to give it your all and put everything you have into the game in front of you. The media and the fans will have expectations of them, but it’s the players who have to go out and do it and only they know how far they can go and what they need to do to get there.”
The experience ahead of them will be memorable, as Peralta explained.
“The best thing is being in the Olympic Village and seeing all the athletes,” he said. “You’re there in the dining hall with all these elite athletes and rising stars of the future, and a lot of the time you don’t even realise who you’re eating next to.”
El Tri turned in some solid performances to win the qualifying competition, conceding just two goals along the way. “They’re good on the ball and they’ve got players who can go past people,” said Peralta, “but their real strength lies in the fact that they’re a team.
“They’ve got a coach who gives them the freedom to play, so long as they take responsibility when it comes to keeping possession. A lot of them have experience too, having played for many years in the first division, and that’s going to help them perform better.”
The draw for the Men’s Olympic Football Tournament Tokyo 2020 pitched Mexico in Group A with hosts Japan, South Africa and France, their opponents in their opening match.
“There’s no question that in short tournaments like this, the opening match is crucial,” said Peralta. “It’s one of the most important games because it shows you where you are and what you can aim for.
“There might be nerves and a bit of uncertainty heading into your first game, but you’ve got to go out to win it because it gives you a platform for the rest of the tournament. France have some real quality players too, but I’m confident that Mexico can get the win.
“I’d love to see Mexico win it. I’d love to celebrate once again and for them to get a medal. It would be great to be able to congratulate them when they come home and give them a big hug. As a Mexican, I love to see other Mexicans go out there and be successful.”