Brazil 3, Belarus 1
Brazil. The single word conjures up hundreds of footballing stories. From Pele to Ronaldinho and Socrates to Neymar, there’s no doubting their legendary credentials. So, with five World Cup victories, more than any other country, how come the green and yellows have never been able to transfer that success to the Olympic Games?
Sunday, 29 July 2012 will go down as a historic day for Brazilian football. In their 50th Olympic match since first competing in the 1952 Helsinki Games, a certain rising star—Neymar—scored his country’s 100th Olympic goal.
And what style he did it in. Curling the ball over the Belarusian wall from a free kick 26 yards from goal, it was the kind of goal befitting both the scorer and his nation.
Speaking of the landmark goal, when I told the 20-year-old Santos striker of it, he was taken by surprise. “I didn’t know [that it was the 100th goal], I’m so glad,” he replied, a smirk stretching across his face from earphone-to-earphone of the headphones around his neck as he said it. “It was a perfect game for the whole Brazilian team.”
But, without any gold to show for their two goals a game average—thanks to new Chelsea man Oscar’s last-minute third—it’s an achievement that has an air of disappointment surrounding it.
So, when asked if this year, Brazil’s 12th appearance at an Olympic Games, would be the year they finally won gold, the country’s golden boy, a player Pele rates higher than Lionel Messi, gave a modest response. “I don’t know, it’s a really difficult tournament, there are so many good teams, but we will try our best.”
Perhaps Neymar is right to be modest, considering their less-than-Brazilian success rate at the Olympic Games; Sweden, Cameroon and Canada all boast more golds.
In 2008 they had a typically strong squad, with Ronaldinho, Thiago Silva and Alexandre Pato, but were simply outclassed by Argentina in the semifinals, losing 3-0. But with Spain crashing out of the tournament after suffering 1-0 defeats to Japan and Honduras, and defending champions Argentina failing to qualify, perhaps Brazil should be more optimistic. Already through to the quarterfinals with a game to spare, they are likely to play Honduras for a place in the semifinals.
On paper, they are rightly one of the favourites. Will this be the year they actually achieve like favourites? Will they be defending Olympic gold in Rio 2016? Only time will tell.
This piece was written by Phil of The Reporters' Academy, a media production company run by young people. The Reporters' Academy is integrated into the world of media, education and employment, based in two great sporting cities, Manchester and Melbourne, and is officially Inspired by London 2012.
All quotes were obtained first-hand unless otherwise noted.