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LONDON — Mexico, quite understandably, is reveling in the glory of being the Olympic men’s soccer champion. Brazil is going home to yet another inquest into how its players fell short of the only title that it has failed to win over the past half-century.
Astonishing. This is either the beauty of sports, in which nothing should ever be taken for granted, or the failure of a truegiant to apply itself in the one arena where its history is less than golden.
The enduring postgame image of Wembley Stadium on Saturday was of 86,162 spectators bewildered by a final in which Mexico, with a third of the ball possession, defeated Brazil, 2-1.
The sun shone, so that was no excuse. The field was pristine. Conditions were ripe in every way for the Brazilians, with many of them alreadyconditioned to Europe through the clubs that hire their talents.
Yet there was Neymar, acclaimed as the most gifted 20-year-old playing the global game right now, lying face-down on the turf, distraught in his failure.
And then there was Oribe Peralta, a 28-year-old journeyman pro in the Mexican league; he transformed himself into a poacher whose brace of opportunist goals gave Mexico itsvictory.
Afterward, Peralta spoke as befits a man who has played the majority of his soccer in the relative shadows of some of these heralded young Brazilians. He talked about how team performance, rather than individual striking, was the key to the achievement.
He also said: “We knew that the Brazilian players lose their heads really quickly when you keep the ball away from them. That’s what wemanaged to do. We were able to keep our shape and calmly play our football.”
The game statistics do not bear that out. Brazil dominated the ball, but Mexico, after it was gifted the opening goal just 29 seconds after the start of play, defended compactly and with disciplined resolution.
Fair enough. Defense is a part of the game, and togetherness will usually overcome disparate individuality, whichthis generation of Brazilians relies upon.
Going forward, there has to be real concern for Brazil. It went into these Olympics with a squad closer to the best that it can find because, even though the Games are ostensibly a tournament for players 23 or under, Brazil has no real competitive matches between now and 2014, when it hosts the World Cup. It will stage the Confederations Cup next year,but that is essentially a rehearsal, a warm-up for the teams and a test of the facilities in readiness for the following summer.
So Mano Menezes, Brazil’s coach for the past two years, had to take this chance. He had to use the Olympics to test the progress of his players under tournament pressure.
They came up short. Yes, before the final, Brazil had won five consecutive games, and scored threegoals in each of them. Yes, Mexico has something of a hex over Brazil, having won six, tied two and lost four of its previous dozen meetings against Brazil.
It is even true that there has been no correlation between Olympic soccer and the World Cup since Italy held both titles concurrently way back in the 1930s.
But from the first minute, when Rafael, the Brazilian who plays right back forManchester United, dithered indecisively with the ball and then passed it sloppily to the opposition, it was clear that either nerves or carelessness was afoot.
Peralta was the predator then, and again after 74 minutes when he was allowed to rise without challenge in the Brazil goal mouth to head the second goal. In between those stolen moments, Mexico, rather than Brazil, threatened to score again,and Hulk’s consolation goal for Brazil at the very end was precisely that, a strike when the match was already lost.
With so many Brazilians — Hulk, Marcelo, Thiago Silva, Juan, Sandro, Pato — all employed by leading European clubs, and so few Mexicans known outside their own country, this cannot be put down to stage fright.

LONDRES - México, muy comprensiblemente, está disfrutando de la...