There was to be no repeat of Japan’s 2-1 win over Mexico from the group stages when the two met again in the bronze-medal match at the Saitama Stadium on 6 August. The Mexicans, gold-medal winners from London 2012, were in imperious form from start to finish and fully deserving of their 3-1 win and place on the Tokyo 2020 (in 2021) Men’s Olympic Football Tournament podium.
Goals from Sebastian Cordova, Johan Vasquez and Alexis Vega made all the difference for Mexico and rendered MITOMA Kaoru's late strike mere consolation for the Japanese.
"It was quite a difficult game," said Mexico coach Jaime Lozano after the final whistle. "That's normal for an Olympic tournament. Both us and the Japanese team played quite well. We were quite strong, we risked something, we did what we had to do and were able to achieve three goals. Two goals were set plays and I think that's one of our advantages."
Mexico dominated their hosts straight from the opening exchanges with the sturdy Luis Romo controlling midfield and never letting the Japanese settle into a coherent rhythm – or any kind of attacking posture.
And with Spain-based Diego Lainez of Real Betis a constant torment from out wide, it was never going to be long before the Mexicans carved out an opening effort on goal. It came on the quarter-hour mark, when the outstanding schemer Cordova hit home to his left from the penalty spot after a foul on the goal-bound Alexis Vega by ENDO Wataru.
And the second for Mexico came just seven minutes later as central defender Vasquez – sent off the first time these two teams met – stooped well to meet a Cordova set-piece and make the score 2-0 to Mexico heading into the break.
The second half continued in much the same fashion as the first, with the Mexicans in complete control. Three minutes from the hour-mark – after a substitution that saw Uriel Antuna replace Lainez in attack – Vega rose to plant a punishing header into the corner of TANI Kosei’s net from a Cordova corner-kick (his third assist and best among men’s footballers at these Tokyo Games).
Late Japan surge comes to nothing
The contest opened up after that and attacking substitute UEDA Ayase forced Mexico’s veteran goalkeeper Memo Ochoa into a fine save with his shot from distance in the 67th minute. And after a series of substitutes, a strong response finally came from the Japanese side in the 78th minute. KUBO Takefusa laid a ball in for MITOMA Kaoru at the edge of the box -- and the tricky Kawasaki Frontale winger rounded three defenders and lifted the ball over Ochoa to raise the hosts' hopes.
But it proved to be a false-dawn as the Mexicans went on to claim the victory (3-1) and become the only team from North America to win two men’s Olympic football medals.
The men’s football here in Japan will wrap up on 7 August when star-studded Spain take on defending champions Brazil in the gold-medal match in Yokohama. The women’s final, between Canada and Sweden, kicks off later today (6 August).