So here we are, at the end of the tournament that no one cares about. The one that was not prestigious enough to capture your or anybody else's attention, or so we were told earlier this year.
It wasn't meaningless for Honduras. All they managed to do was defeat one of the Gold Medal favorites and give another major heart palpitations before finally bowing out. Was it worth the trouble for them to find a new base of players for a national team in transition? I think so.
Moussa Konate scored 5 goals for Senegal and made a pretty good down payment on his future in the process. I am pretty sure he knew that the Olympics weren't the World Cup, but still a little more prestigious than the World Football Challenge
Brazil used the Olympic tournament to solidify its base for the home team at the upcoming World Cup. Surely those writers remember Brazil, right? Those of the jogo bonito, the pentacampeão yada yada yada... had yet to win a Gold Medal in soccer at the Olympics. Gold would have been a nice confidence booster as 2014 creeps ever closer.
Or a devastating setback, depending on the result. Those who were responsible for the latter have already had a hugely successful Olympics - their most successful Olympic campaign, ever, in fact. And to win the Gold on top of that? A glorious, glorious achievement.
Quick little factoid - guess who has never lost to Brazil in a tournament final?
Aside from winning their first Olympic soccer medal ever in their history, Mexico's Olympic campaign will be recorded as an unqualified success for more than just the Gold medal that is hanging around the players necks. True, it was the biggest win in Mexico's soccer history. But it was a lot more than that. It has solidified a very sound foundation for the future both near and far.
It gave Mexico's players an extended opportunity to play together and win together. Players like the central defense partnership of Diego Reyes and Hiram Mier. They worked together through the Pre-Olímpico, Toulon, and the Olympics. That's nearly 20 matches where they can learn how to best complement each other. They stonewalled Brazil for 91 minutes today, their best effort in a series of great efforts throughout the tournament.
Oribe Peralta has been a top local league striker for a number of years, but he was a huge question mark at the international level. Peralta answered the call with massive goals vs Switzerland and Japan, the latter of which clinched Mexico's spot in the final (and it was one of the top goals of the tournament).
And to get two more in the final, wow. The man has free meals waiting for him in restaurants all over Mexico for the rest of his life.
Now Chepo de la Torre will not have to wonder if Peralta is up to the challenge during a crucial qualifier, or a World Cup game because he'll already know.
The other 15 players - MVPs everyone of them. The team unity was as good as I had ever seen it for a Mexico side. And Flaco? Muchas gracias, flaco. Un abrazote!
Mexico has a bright future to be sure, and the present is equally as incandescent. After the Pre-olimpico, we stated on this space that Mexico would be a legitimate medal contender, not only with the talent that they had, but who would be added to the squad. 2 of those players declined to participate while another was not allowed to participate. And in the final, Mexico was without their best player in London. In other words, Mexico wasn't even at full strength, and they still won the Gold Medal. So how much incredulity will we get when we say that Mexico should be considered a legitimate contender to make a deep run 2 years from now in Brazil?
In the end, the Olympic tournament was terrific for CONCACAF: an Honduras that acquitted themselves extremely well, a bronze for the Canadian women, and Gold Medals for on both the men's and women's sides.
What I would give to be at the Angel right now.