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Mexico’s road to Olympic bronze filled with interesting tidbits.

Mexico’s run to their second Olympic medal in football had a lot of curious details.

Mexico v Japan: Bronze Medal Match: Men’s Football - Olympics: Day 14 Photo by Leon Neal/Getty Images

Mexico got their second Olympic medal by getting a bronze on Friday after defeating Japan by a 3-1 score. It was the cherry on top of a great tournament that also had a lot of coincidences and other interesting tidbits around it. I tried to recap a lot of the many things that were around Mexico’s historic run.

1968 Olympics

  • Of course the most talked about event was that Mexico’s win was a bit of revenge forthe 1968 Olympic Games. Those games were the only ones that Mexico hosted, and Mexico and Japan faced each other in the bronze medal match where Japan defeated the hosts 2-0. 53 years later it was Mexico’s turn to defeat the hosts, as they defeated Japan 3-1 to get their bronze medal that they missed out on in 1968.
  • In another reversal from 1968, Mexico lost a group stage match against France by a 4-1 score before getting revenge in this Olympiad, defeating France this time by that same 4-1 score.

2012 Olympics

  • In 2012, Mexico had the same two results against Japan in the home country where the Olympics took place. Prior to the Tournament, Mexico had a friendly (the second to last before a closed friendly against Great Britain) in England where they lost 2-1 to Japan before facing them again in the Semifinals and defeating them 3-1. Now it was all in the tournament but just as in 2012, Mexico lost their first match against Japan in the group stage by 2-1 before facing each other again in the bronze medal match and winning by the same score as in London, 3-1.
  • Mexico also had the strange coincidence of having half of their games in both tournaments being played against the same three teams. Brazil, Japan ,and South Korea were the teams Mexico faced in both tournaments and, because they played Japan twice in 2021, it means that they played 7 out of 12 games against those rivals, more than half.
  • More so is that to add to the number of teams, this means Mexico played all their medal games against Brazil and Japan. If you add the Japan game in the 1968, this means that Mexico has only played one medal game with a team that wasn’t either Brazil or Japan. That match was their first ever, their match against Bulgaria in the Semifinals of 1968.
  • Because of the penalty shootouts not counting as losses, this means that out of 12 games in 2012 and 2021, Mexico has only lost their group stage game against Japan.
  • The 2012 Olympics had both gold medal winners in football get the same medal in the 2020 games. Men’s gold winner Mexico and women’s gold winner United States would win their respective bronze medals in 2020. To make matters more interesting, their respective semifinals opponents would go on to win the Gold Medal in 2020 (Brazil in the men’s tournament and Canada in the women’s tournament).

South Korea

  • There was a very notable coincidence between Mexico, South Korea, and Honduras. In the 2016 Olympics, Mexico faced South Korea in the final group stage game as they played for their ticket to the Quarterfinals. South Korea won the match 1-0 to eliminate Mexico. South Korea then proceeded to lose against Honduras in the Quarterfinals 1-0 to be eliminated. The reverse situation happened this time, with South Korea and Honduras facing each other in the final group stage game for their ticket to the Quarterfinals. South Korea won the match by 6-0 to eliminate Honduras. South Korea then proceeded to lose against Mexico in the Quarterfinals by a 6-3 score. In another coincidence, both Honduras and Mexico then went on to face Brazil, who defeated them in the Semifinal match.
  • The last Olympic games where Mexico didn’t face South Korea was in 1992. Mexico has now faced South Korea for five straight Olympic tournaments (1996, 2004, 2012, 2016, and 2020).
  • In those matches Mexico had tied twice and lost twice, never even scoring a goal against South Korea before scoring six in this year’s victory.

Japan

  • Mexico has won both Olympic medals against Japan. They just won their second bronze medal and although it wasn’t known which one, they guaranteed themselves their 2012 gold medal game after winning their semifinal match.
  • After defeating Japan, this becomes Mexico’s second victory over a host in the tournament. In 2004 they defeated Greece, also scoring three goals in the match, a 3-2 victory.

Brazil

  • Mexico has been the only team to defeat Brazil in an Olympic tournament since 2012. The 2-1 loss in the Olympic Final was their only loss, which came in a tournament where Brazil had won the first five games.
  • With Brazil winning the gold medal, it means Latin America has won the last five gold medals in men’s football. It started in 2004 when Argentina won the gold medal after defeating Paraguay. Argentina won again in 2008, then Mexico defeated Brazil in 2012, and Brazil won in 2016 after defeating Germany and again in 2020 after defeating Spain. Also curiously those countries all won their first Olympic gold medals as before this streak, the only Latin American country to win Olympic gold was Uruguay (1924, 1928).
  • In terms of the Olympic Tournaments and U20 World Cups, Mexico has faced Brazil in four out of five of their top four finishes in those tournaments. Mexico defeated Brazil in the first U20 World Cup semifinal in penalty kicks before losing the final to the USSR in another shootout. In 2011, Mexico lost against Brazil in the Semifinals of the U20 World Cup in the only other semifinal they have played in that tournament. Of course in 2012 Mexico won the final against Brazil in the Olympics, and has just faced Brazil in the 2021 tournament where they lost the penalty shootout after a scoreless tie. If you add in the U17 World Cups, Mexico also had a lot of interactions with Brazil as they won their first U17 World Cup by defeating Brazil in the 2005 tournament. They also just missed Brazil in their other U17 World Cup title, who was a semifinalist but was the only one of those teams to not face Mexico.

UEFA

  • Since Mexico’s crushing loss to France in the 1976 Olympics (4-1), Mexico hasn’t lost to a UEFA side in a Olympic tournament.
  • Had Mexico not tied against Germany in 2016, we would be talking about a five game winning streak against UEFA teams post 1992. Right now it sits at four wins and one tie.

Miscellaneous

  • As in 2012, this Olympics marks Mexico getting the same medal it did in the Pan American games prior to the tournament. In 2011 Mexico won the gold medal in the 2011 Pan American games held in Guadalajara after defeating Argentina by a 1-0 score. They would then proceed to also win gold in 2012. In 2019 Mexico won the bronze medal of the Pan American games played in Lima after defeating Uruguay by a 1-0 score. Mexico would then proceed to also win the bronze.
  • Mexico also had the same coincidence with the Toulon Tournament. In 2012 Mexico won their only Toulon Tournament after defeating Turkey 3-0 in preparation for the Olympics. In 2019, Mexico would end in third place after defeating Republic of Ireland in a penalty shootout (4-3) after a scoreless tie.
  • In another strange coincidence, in the 2019 Toulon Tournament Mexico also went out after losing in the semifinal in a penalty shootout (they tied Japan 2-2 and lost 5-4 in the shootout). They will also face the third place matchup against a team they faced earlier in the tournament in the group stage (Republic of Ireland, with whom they had two scoreless ties).