The 21-year-old was an ever-present throughout the tournament, but in the first minute of the final he dwelt on the ball, and after coming under pressure delivered a loose pass into the centre of the pitch, where it was intercepted on the edge of the box for Oribe Peralta to finish.
Brazil went on to struggle to create chances and Peralta went on to head a second in the second-half. Although Hulk managed to pull a goal back in stoppage time, it was not enough to prevent Brazil, who have never claimed the Olympic gold medal, having to settle for silver.
"Rafael knows he made a mistake that led to the first Mexican goal in the Olympic football final in the London 2012 Games," read the Brazil Football Confederation’s website.
"There's no denying it. Nevertheless, with his skill and determination, the young No.2 can't be tainted by the error.
|4.50||Brazil are 4.50 with bet365 to win the World Cup on home soil in 2014|
"Mistakes are for correcting. Rafael knows that. Later, when things have calmed down, he will surely look at the move and learn from it. At the end of the day, as the saying goes, to err is human and we learn from our mistakes."
The unusual step contrasted with the approach of other members of the national team, including coach Mano Menezes who emphasised that his team were unable to equalise over the course of the match, and forward Neymar who believed all the players shared responsibility.
Menezes has been under pressure as Brazil prepare to host the 2014 World Cup and has come under heavy fire following the defeat, including from former national team striker Romario who indicated it could be his last game in charge.