Brazil must overcome intense pressure to win historic Olympic gold medal in football


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The Independent Online

Brazil face Mexico on this afternoon with the chance to make history by bringing home the only title the five-time world champions are yet to win. Star player and national idol Neymar will play in his first major final for the Seleção hoping to establish a winning mentality before he leads his country on home soil at the Fifa confederations Cup next year, the World Cup in 2014 and the Rio Olympics in 2016.

Brazil have lost both of their previous Olympic finals and appear in their first final in 24 years. A team featuring the likes of Romario and Bebeto had to settle for a silver medal after a 2-1 defeat to the Soviet Union at the 1988 Seoul Games.

Tim Vickery, the South American football correspondent for the BBC and World Soccer magazine, believes South America places great importance on the Olympic football tournament as it is part of the “continents folklore.”

This Brazil side, a generation of very promising mainly home-based players, will provide the core of the 2014 side aiming for the World Cup title - if they win. For Brazil the Olympic tournament is not just a chance for youngsters to gain international experience but a vital part of preparations to build a winning squad ahead of hosting a World Cup in just two years. The CBF, the governing body of football in Brazil, has indicated winning gold is a priority at the Games and failure could mean changes ahead of next year’s Confederations Cup which could mean coach Mano Menezes faces the axe along with several players.

Vickery believes the Brazilian public is only prepared for one outcome. “There is intense pressure in this game. Expectation is certainly of victory, but a note of caution because over recent years Mexico have more than held their own with Brazil.”

Santos star Neymar, who helped Brazil's under-20 squad win the South American championship last year, is aware that today's final at Wembley represents a chance for Brazil to make history.

“We know that so many great Brazilian players have tried to win this gold and failed,” said Neymar. “We know how difficult it is to win it, because otherwise all these great players would have won it already.

”We are here representing all generations of players who tried and were not able to win this tournament before.”

“We can't worry about the pressure. We all know how much this means to us and to everybody else in Brazil. We have to go out there and do our job and win,” said the tournaments leading goalscorer Leandro Damião  

A side featuring recent €45m PSG acquisition Lucas Moura, new Chelsea signing Oscar, and Porto star Hulk has entertained the crowds with Brazil coming into the final after winning all five of their matches and scoring three goals in each of them.

Neymar is certainly ready to continue dazzling British crowds and add his name to Brazilian football history.

“No Brazilian has ever won this and I feel I'm prepared to help the team leave with the gold medal.”