Oribe Peralta scored with a swerving long-range strike, then set up another goal with a stunning back-heel to help Mexico beat Japan 3-1 on Tuesday and secure a spot in the final of the men’s Olympic soccer tournament.
Mexico will play Saturday against Brazil, which beat South Korea 3-0 in the other semifinal.
”We are guaranteed a silver, but we want a gold,” Mexico coach Fernando Luis Tena said. ”Mexico is a football nation. They must be partying tonight.”
Mexico’s previous best showing at the Olympics was at the 1968 Mexico City Games, when the team was beaten in the bronze-medal match 2-0 by Japan, also that nation’s best finish.
Yuki Otsu opened the scoring at the 12-minute mark for Japan. The forward sent a swerving shot into the roof of the net from outside the penalty area after several quick passes carved out a sliver of space.
Marco Fabian headed in a corner for Mexico before halftime to equalize.
Peralta scored at the 65-minute mark after winning the ball off of Japanese defender Takahiro Ohgihara, who lingered with it too long after keeper Shuichi Gonda had rolled it to him. Peralta ran with the ball briefly, then shot high and to the left of Gonda to give Mexico the lead.
”Beautiful,” was the way Peralta described his shot from outside the penalty area in front of 80,000 fans at Wembley.
”I have never scored a goal that went so close to the top corner,” he said. ”That goal represented everything we tried to do today because I fought for the ball, I got it back and I shot with all my strength.”
Deep into extra time, Javier Cortes cut into the box from the right wing, took the back-heel from Peralta, beat a defender, then sent the ball through the legs of Gonda to cap the victory.
”We had a good start, but then stopped moving,” Japan coach Takashi Sekizuka said. ”Everyone is very disappointed. But we need to get over our emotion and prepare for the next game.”
Japan plays South Korea on Friday for the bronze medal.