Mexico and Brazil are big countries with good domestic football leagues, enough money to fund youth development and a population that's absolutely crazy about the sport. Incredibly, despite all of the resources at their disposal and all of the talent that both nations have produced, Brazil has never won a gold medal in men's soccer, while Mexico has never won a medal of any color. El Tri has already captured a medal and will go home as heroes, but Brazil has to beat them Saturday to achieve their pre-tournament goals.
Brazil was seriously challenged in their quarterfinal against Honduras, just like they were in the group stage against Egypt and Belarus, calling into question their credentials as a heavy gold-medal favorite coming into their match against South Korea. Hulk was surprisingly dropped for that game, while defender Juan had his strongest match of the tournament in a comfortable 3-0 victory.
Mexico was also impressive in their semifinal, dispatching of Japan. Yuki Otsu scored a stunning early goal from long range to put Japan ahead in the 12th minute, but El Tri were the better side from then until the end of the match. Marco Fabian leveled with a headed goal and the Mexicans settled down after that, with Oribe Peralta and Javier Cortes closing out their side's 3-1 victory with impressive goals.
That victory did not come without loss for El Tri, however. Giovani dos Santos picked up an injury and will be unavailable for the final. In Mexico's first two games, with dos Santos on the bench, Miguel Ponce started on the left wing while Marco Fabian, who has been playing on the left, started as an attacking central midfielder. Luis Fernando Tena will almost certainly revert to that exact setup in dos Santos' absence.
As for Hulk, he might stay out of Brazil's lineup. He hasn't had a good tournament and there was no drop-off with him on the bench. He'll remain a deadly bench option for the Selecao in the final.
For news and features ahead of our live coverage of the final, follow along with our Mexico vs. Brazil, 2012 Olympics men's soccer final StoryStream.