Brazil target glory with eye on World Cup
Saturday 11 August 2012
Mano Menezes knows how important this afternoon's final is. His players will take on Mexico for the gold medal in the men's football at Wembley at 3pm.
Of course every medal is important and gold is the most precious but there is more at stake here than just that. There is the self-esteem of the proudest football nation on earth. Brazil have won the World Cup an unprecedented five times, but, strangely, never the Olympics. They have lost the final twice, 2-0 to France in 1984 and 2-1 to the Soviet Union in 1988.
Even if Menezes, speaking yesterday, was cautious in his pronouncements, he must be aware of the historical burden. "This is our third opportunity to win gold. We are going to use what we learned from the previous two finals and do our best," he said. "We go back to the teachings of football, which is 'May the best team win'. We will do our best to have a good final."
Naturally this pressure creates a burden but Menezes insisted that he was comfortable with it. "You do have butterflies in your stomach and that is part of it. The day I don't have them is the day I should not be working in football any more. I do feel under pressure, but it is no different to any other moment in this Olympic Games. I try to be very rational. As a coach you have to be rational to make decisions. Emotion is for the fans."
While the whole of the Olympic movement will turn its attention to Rio de Janeiro tomorrow night, Menezes' focus will be rather more immediate. Because two years before the next Olympic games is the next World Cup, which will be in Brazil, and which his team are under intense pressure to win.
Every host nation has to deal with expectations but Brazil more than anywhere else. After two disappointing World Cup campaigns there cannot be a third. Everything is geared towards success in 2014, no more so than at Wembley today.
Menezes chose a very talented squad, and the hope is that those players – led by the brilliant 20-year-olds Neymar and Oscar – will learn how to win in London and then show the world in Brazil. Gold today is meant to be the start of something. Menezes paid tribute to the maturing of his players yesterday. "We are all going to leave England different to how we were when we arrived," he said. "We have had such a positive campaign that all the players have a much more mature outlook."
The two creative players have been Brazil's very best. Oscar is a precociously intelligent director, always drifting into space and spotting moves and passes that others cannot. Neymar's brilliance is more singular, as he changes the tempo of the game at will. Neymar has almost every gift you could want in a footballer – pace, strength, skill, imagination and balance – and his performances in the last two weeks, his finest yet in Europe, have been a delight. In front of those two is Leandro Damiao, a clever and selfless centre-forward who has still found six goals in five games so far.
For this new generation of Brazilians, today could be a transformative moment. "It's true that this is not the most important football match in our history," said Menezes. "But it is the most important match for the Brazil players who play." And where more fitting for this setting up of the next World Cup than Wembley? "If you had the chance to write a plot for a film about winning a gold medal, you could not choose a better place for it than here."
Kick-off 3pm, Wembley.
TV BBC 1.
Referee M Clattenburg (GB).
Odds Brazil 4-7 Draw [90 min] 14-5 Mexico 5-1
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