Men’s Olympic final preview: Under the gaze of Christos, have Brazil returned?

Christos and maracana

By Samindra Kunti in Rio de Janeiro

August 19 – Brazil has at last taken discernable steps to footballing redemption – at least on the pitch. On Saturday Brazil will meet Germany in the gold medal match of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, a chance to avenge the unforgiving 7-1 semi-finals defeat at the 2014 World Cup. 

Two years ago, the Selecao were denied a spot in the final of their home World Cup when eventual champions Germany dished out a 7-1 semi-final thrashing in Belo Horizonte. Neymar and Thiago Silva were absent in a game that became known as the ‘Mineirazo’.

This time Neymar may carry the hosts to Olympic glory. In one of the great anomalies of world football, Brazil has never won the Olympic gold medal. At London 2012, Brazil and Neymar were defeated 2-0 in the final by Mexico.

Brazil cruised past Honduras 6-0 in the semi-finals with Neymar as a main protagonist. The hosts had begun the Olympic football tournament hesitantly with two consecutive scoreless draws against South Africa and Iraq. Brazil picked up its game in the last pool game against Denmark after scathing criticism from the whole spectrum of Brazilian football.

Germany, Brazil’s opponents, defeated tournament outsiders Nigeria 2-0.

“I don’t see it as being about revenge, for me it’s an opportunity,” said the Brazilian defender Douglas Costa. ”It will be an opportunity to turn around something the fans today talk about as a difficult defeat. God willing, we are going to reverse that score line.”

Brazil and Germany are playing with their U23 teams at the Olympic tournament, as per FIFA regulations, with three over-age players permitted on each team. The similarities with the semi-final in 2014 are limited, but the game carries huge symbolic value for the hosts. They may finally end their gold medal hoodoo.

Brazil’s team includes Marquinhos from PSG, Gabriel Jesus, who signed for Manchester City last month for 27 million pounds and Gabriel Barbosa, who goes by the nickname Gabigol.

A Brazil win in the final would be a crowning moment not just for the country’s football but, for many Brazilians, for the 2016 Rio Olympics as a whole.

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