Mexico's Oribe Peralta (C) celebrates with his team mates after scoring a goal against Brazil during their men's football gold medal match at Wembley Stadium during the London 2012 Olympic Games August 11, 2012. (Photo : REUTERS/Jorge Silva)
The Olympic Soccer tournament was a great preview of what the world of soccer can await for the next few years.A great generation of talent took over the tournament in unexpected ways.
Here were the best players from the Men's Olympic soccer tournament.
Oribe Peralta - Mexico - The man of the hour. The hero. The one who could. Peralta had a strong tournament over all leading up to the final as Mexico's secondary offensive threat behind Giovanni Dos Santos and Marco Fabian. But when Dos Santos was ineligible for the final with an injury, Mexico was in need of someone to step up. Peralta did just that with not one but two goals. And one of the goals came just 29 seconds into the contest and secured Peralta's name in the history books as the fastest goal ever at the Olympics. The striker ended the tournament with four goals and one assist and while that was only good for third best, he scored when it mattered most.
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He secured a 1-0 win over Switzerland to give Mexico control of Group B. He scored the game clincher against Japan and he provided all the offense in a 2-1 win for the gold medal against Brazil. He is a star on the rise.
Giovanni Dos Santos - Mexico - Dos Santos needs no introduction. He was Mexico's best player coming into the tournament and despite missing the final, his contributions can never be overlooked. Big goals in big moments? He had three of them in this tournament. Leadership skills? How can one not note how much more effective the Mexican attack was during the group stage with Dos Santos than without him? He was Mexico's superstar with a reputation for clutch play on big stages and proved his worth on another big stage yet again.
Carlos Salcido - Mexico - The grizzled vet was asked to do something he was not used to when he was placed into the midfield position. As a career defender in Europe, Salcido adapted brilliantly to the midfield and not only led with tenacity, but also through example. He was Mexico's outlet from the defensive to the midfield and up to the forwards and was brilliant in this role during the entire tournament.
Leandro Damiao - Brazil - The Brazilian striker was a revelation and broke out for six goals in the tournament. He might be the heir of Ronaldo for the Samba Kings and could be primed for a huge World Cup in two years. He is three years older than wunderkind Neymar, but he made himself more noticeable at times that Brazil's golden boy.
Neymar - Brazil - He did have his fair share of dreadful moments. And he was largely absent in the final, but where would Brazil be without their "Next One." He carried them through Belarus and Korea Republic with splendid play. He helped set up Damiao for a plethora of goals and he was the man with the most pressure in the world to deliver. And he did that for the most part.
Moussa Konate - Senegal - Had it not been for Damiao's two goals against Korea, Konate is a top contender for the golden boot of the tournament. And who saw it coming that the 19 year old would score five of six Senegal goals in the tournament. He essentially carried them through the group stage and then got them back into the game against eventual champion Mexico. He will be one to watch in coming years.
Yuki Otsu - Japan - The 22 year old was a dream for Japan with big goals in big places to help the Samurais to the semi-finals. Despite the collapse in their final two matches, Otsu was a constant threat and made himself the most noticeable man on the turf for the Asian squad.
Mohamed Aboutrika - Egypt - Despite Egypt's exit in the quarter finals, Aboutrika carried them with stellar playmaking, a few timely goals, and true leadership that helped them through the trials and tribulations of a difficult group stage. He is a staple of this team and while this may be his swansong on the international stage, he left leaving a huge mark on the tournament.
Roger Espinoza - Honduras - He is what leaders are made of. He led them through a tough group that included Spain and Japan before unloading on a strong Brazilian squad. He set up the first goal and then scored the second when his squad was down a man and looked to be dead at any moment. Even when down 3-2, he played a heroic match to help the squad lose with dignity.
Craig Bellamy - Great Britain - Many players stood out for the home team, but he was the best of the bunch with strong playmaking and tremendous leadership qualities. This is his swansong and it was a beautiful one indeed.
Koo Ja Cheol - Korea Republic - Applause to the Korean captain is mandatory. The midfielder led his club to a medal when no one expected them to go anything near one. He scored one goal but played like a man on a mission throughout. He led his team to an economic game that kept the offensive flowing and took pressure off the battered defense. He was Korea's best player in every game and stepped up when others faltered to create offensive chances.