Gold medals, gold standards: Soccer brings role reversal for Mexico and Brazil

Mexico took its first gold medal today with its stunning win over Brazil in soccer, bringing a burst of joy to a struggling nation.

Andrew Medichini/AP
Mexican soccer players celebrate after winning the gold medal in the 2012 London Olympics.
Rich Clabaugh/Staff

The Olympic glory of “El Tri,” reads the banner over Mexico's conservative daily Reforma online, a photo of Mexico's winning soccer team donning their newly earned gold medals. Further to the left, El Universal declares: “They made history!”

“We are made of gold,” splashes Milenio.

Soccer-crazed Mexico took home its first gold medal today, with the men's tricolor (named such for the colors of Mexico's red, white, and green flag) beating the storied Brazilian team in the Olympic finals.

Spontaneous celebrations were reported across the country, from downtown Mexico City to the streets of Guadalajara, with fans carrying flags and shouting victory songs in marches that shut down traffic.

Mexico beat Brazil 2-1, with two goals by player Oribe Peralta – one just seconds into the game, another in the second half – bringing a sense of badly desired success to this struggling country, and maybe signaling a reversal in fortunes for Mexico and its long-lauded southerly neighbor Brazil.

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Brazil has been Latin America's golden child for the past five years. It will host the World Cup in 2014 and the Olympic Games two years later. Its economy has boomed. Investors have flocked to it. The celebratory headlines have not died down.

In the same period, Mexico has struggled amid slower economic growth and historic violence, which has made the country ground zero for hemispheric organized crime. Its death toll alone: over 50,000 in six years.

 It is with a certain amount of envy that Mexico has looked at Brazil. But now tides seem to be changing. Recent headlines are calling Mexico's slow and steady economy the stable one. “Why investors love Mexico,” reads a recent one from Forbes. From Mercopress today: “Mexico Ousts Brazil as Investors’ Top Choice in Latin America.”

 And this Saturday, at least in the afterglow of today's game, the change in moods could not be clearer.

“This has been the highest point of my career. To sing the national anthem with a gold medal around your neck is priceless,” said Mexico coach Luis Fernando Tena to Bloomberg News.  “Winning this gold medal on the sacred pitch of Wembley makes it even more special. This is a fair reward for my 18 warriors.”

 It was a big game for both Latin American countries: Mexico was the underdog, making history by even getting to the finals. But for all its sterling reputation in the world of soccer, Brazil had never won the Olympic gold, either.

Brazil made it to the finals in both 1984 and 1988, but lost to France in Los Angeles and to the Soviet Union during the Seoul games. Its next chance is on home turf during the 2016 games in Rio de Janeiro.

And by then, it, not Mexico, could be the clear underdog - both on and off the field.

IN PICTURES; Today at the Olympics

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