El Tri sees gold medal dreams dashed by Brazil

Team Mexico players slump in dejection after Brazil took an early lead in their penalty shoot-out. (Photo by Atsushi Tomura/Getty Images)
Team Mexico players slump in dejection after Brazil took an early lead in their penalty shoot-out. (Photo by Atsushi Tomura/Getty Images) /
El Tri Brazil
Uriel Antuna saw this shot blocked by Brazilian defender Diego Carlos after getting into the box late in the first half. (Photo by Koki Nagahama/Getty Images) /

El Tri was outclassed by Brazil for 120 minutes but survived the high-intensity pressure to force a penalty kick shoot-out. Alas, Mexico’s hopes of a gold medal ended there and the defending champions advanced to their third consecutive Olympic final.

Mexico will have to dig deep to overcome the disappointment as a bronze medal will be on the line in Friday’s third-place match in Saitama, Japan.

El Tri fans suffered yet another bitter loss a little over a day after the senior squad was stunned by a youthful US team in the Concacaf Gold Cup final.

Jaime Lozano’s team was hoping to repeat the magical run to the 2012 gold medal in London (El Tri defeated Brazil in that match), but still has the opportunity to climb onto an Olympic podium for the second time in the nation’s history. Mexico will play Japan in a rematch of a group-stage game won by the hosts, 2-1.

El Tri under pressure from the outset

The South America squad – led by veteran Dani Alves – was on the front foot from the opening kick-off, forcing a tough save by El Tri skipper Memo Ochoa only 11 minutes in. Mexico kept its shape relatively well, holding Brazil to 12 total shots, but was too often arriving to the ball a split second too late.

Too often, Mexico opted to clear its area with long passes, content to catch its collective breath instead of carrying the ball out and risk getting caught out of position or conceding a turnover in its own defensive end.

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Fullbacks Jesús Angulo and Vladimir Loroña were especially culpable, too often imprecise with passes. Defender César Montes also had a low completion percentage while midfielders J.J. Esquivel and Sebastián Córdova were rarely first to the ball. Brazil won too many 50-50 balls, allowing the “Scratch de Ouro” to maintain steady pressure on the Green-White-and-Red.

Luis Romo had another stellar game for El Tri and his thumper in minute 42 nearly opened the scoring but goalie Santos was up to the task. It was one of three saves made by the Athletico Paranaense keeper (Ochoa tallied six saves, including a top-notch stop in minute 23 off a Dani Alves bullet from a free kick just outside the box).

Alexis Vega – the offensive star for El Tri – was inconsistent with the ball at his feet though he did ignite a couple break-outs that could have changed the outcome of the match. One resulted in the aforementioned Romo shot, the other saw Antuna take too long to make a decision and his shot was stuffed by a defender.

Coach Lozano made three changes in the second half, but none of the subs made a significant contribution. “Canelo” Angulo fumbled away multiple possessions after coming on in minute 78 while Diego Lainez was stripped of the ball the first two times he touched it.

In minute 82, Everton man Richarlison met a header at the near post only to watch it clang harmlessly off the inside of the far post. He scrambled to recover the loose ball, but his centering pass zipped across the goal mouth and out of the box.

The shoot-out ended quickly as El Tri missed its first two shots (Eduardo Aguirre was denied and Johan Vázquez missed the target) while Brazil banged all four of its shots home. Ochoa guessed right on each shot – even getting a glove on Brazil’s first – but could not make a stop. Brazil deservedly advanced to Sunday’s final with a 4-1 shoot-out win.

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The previous time these two teams played was at the 2018 World Cup when Brazil eliminated El Tri 3-0 in a Round of 16 clash.