Brazil’s first Olympic men’s group match is today, Thursday, July 26th. The Seleção (The Brazil national football team), will face off against Egypt at 20:45 CET in Cardiff’s Millennium Stadium.
Today is the eve of the official start of the games but due to the large number of football faceoffs needed to narrow the field down to bronze, silver and gold, the group matches have started ahead of the opening ceremonies.
Coached by Mano Menezes with Alexandre Pato, Hulk and Neymar as forwards, the odds are looking good with Brazil as current favorites for gold. If they should suceed, it would be the Brazil’s first Olympic gold medal in football. It is one international prize that has mysteriously eluded Brazilian footballers with the closest they’ve come to date being silver medals in 1988 and 1984.
The squad, at times having been criticized as inexperienced has made a concentrated effort to focus only on the upcoming matches at hand. They announced last week a choice to stay in Hertfordshire rather than within the Village in Olympic park, which according to coach Menezes, has “too many temptations” .
The brightest star on this year’s team is Neymar da Silva Santos Júnior, better known simply as Neymar. The now 20 year old, born in São Paulo state, has been repeatedly called the next Pele. Having joined Santos FC’s youth academy followed by quick ascent to stardom within Brasil, like Pele, the comparisons almost at times write themselves. However, Pele himself, likes to shift to a comparison of the young Brazilian star to Argentine footballer Lionel Messi instead. Pele had said that Neymar is better than Messi, who is now a current player for Barcelona and is sometimes argued to be the best player of all time.
Neymar is just getting started. Having debuted on the Seleção roughly two years ago, he has been increasingly wowing fans while catching the eyes of international clubs ever since. Should he perform well in these games, more European teams will likely be wooed and possibly begin making Neymar bigger and better transfer offers.
Not to be out done however, the forwards Hulk and Pato and now Oscar are very much stars in their own right. After a recent US/ Brazil friendly, rumors of Hulk’s possible transfer from Portugal’s Porto to UK’s Chelsea abounded. Instead it seems that his Seleção teammate, midfielder Oscar is Chelsea bound instead with Hulk to remain with Porto. Alexandre Pato, current AC Milan striker, recently also had the press racing to report a possible move as he was thought to be leaving to join former teammates in France. However, he too appears to be staying put for the time being. Both Pato and Hulk when asked about their respective possible transfers, choose to, instead of addressing those issues, talk about their focus on the upcoming Olympics.
Managing all of that focus is Coach Mano Menezes. Having replaced Dunga shortly after his coaching lead the Brazilian squad to their quarterfinal lose to the Netherlands 2–1 in the 2010 World Cup, Menezes has reorganized the senior squad over the last two years and will lead Brazil’s Under-23s in London. Referred to as the Under 23s because selection of players is limited those under the age of 23 with the exception of three additional overage players. Menezes’ selection of Thiago Silva, Hulk and Marcelo as the squad’s three over 23 picks has been called into question by some who wonder why Chelsea’s David Luiz didn’t make the cut. Still, the full squad of 18 listed below seems very strong.
Goalkeepers: Neto, Cabral
Defenders: Danilo, Rafael, Alex Sandro, Marcelo, Thiago Silva, Bruno Uvini, Juan
Midfielders: Sandro, Romulo, Lucas, Oscar, Ganso
Forwards: Pato, Neymar, Leandro Damiao, Hulk
Reserves: Marquinhos, Giuliano, Cassemiro, Gabriel
Time will tell if this group will be the first set of footballers to bring Olympic gold home to Brasil. If last Friday’s face-off against Great Britain and the resulting 2-0 win for the Seleção is any indication of things to come, then Brazil’s future is indeed looking golden.