(Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)
The men’s Olympic football tournament at London 2012 is becoming a melodramatic novel filled with sensational stories and unexpected surprises. From Jerry Bengston's winning header lifting Honduras over pre-tournament favorites Spain, to Moussa Konate’s goals and Sadio Mane’s jogo bonito helping Senegal topple Luis Suarez’s Uruguay, to Japan’s efficient form in winning their first two group stage matches, to Neymar and Oscar’s dazzling maneuvers with Brazil, and finally to Mexico’s overtly, and sometimes exaggerated strategizing before, during, and after their matches.
With their 2-0 victory over Gabon, Mexico finished the second round of matches as the leader of Group B with four points. South Korea will enter the third match as the group’s second place team with four points, but with a goal differential of +1. Gabon and Switzerland, Mexico’s last group stage opponent, each have one point.
The sharp and inspired shape of Giovani dos Santos helped lead Mexico to Sunday's comfortable 2-0 win. The result against Gabon means that Mexico is now the only team in the men’s football tournament of the 30th Olympiad with a clean score sheet. This bright note originates thanks to the exemplary communication of Mexico’s four defenders – Néstor Vidrio, Diego Reyes, Hiram Mier, and Dárvin Chávez. Carlos Salcido and José de Jesús Corona are also proving to be excellent leaders as two of Mexico’s reinforcements.
Mexico’s strategy is becoming one of its best weapons. Perhaps Luis Fernando Tena is making the correct decision by using Giovani as a "star" substitute. Perhaps he is making the right decision by starting Héctor Herrera, the Mexican Ribery, over Jorge Chaton Enríquez, who provides Mexico with the needed stability in the dying minutes of the game.
Oribe Peralta finally responded to Tena and his staff’s trust with a satisfactory match against Gabon. His name and image will not be on the tabloids or main articles in the morning Mexican hours of Monday, but his presence was felt in Coventry. He gave Giovani a precise assist after guarding the ball and provoked a penalty to give Mexico a second score.
Marco Fabián still searches for a fulfilling match, needing to produce a goal or an assist. When Giovani is on the pitch, his game raises a couple of bars. Amongst all the strategic combinations in Tena’s notebook, one that will take more notoriety in the upcoming matches is finding the appropriate moment to put two of Mexico’s most talented players together on the pitch for more than 45 minutes. It is a matter of days.
The field in London 2012 is wide open. There is only one favorite -- Brazil -- that is producing authoritative performances to legitimize its claims to a medal. The quarterfinal pool will be one to keep in the books, for now Mexico is well on its way towards becoming a member of the elite eight.