For Brazil, the Olympic football final means a chance to end decades of frustration. For Neymar, it's just another match.
Neymar says he is not approaching Saturday's final against Mexico much differently than any other match he has played with Brazil so far, even though it can give his nation its coveted first gold in football. It's the only title the five-time world champions have yet to win.
It will be Neymar's first major final since he became widely seen as the future of Brazilian football, the player responsible for leading the nation at the Olympics and at the 2014 World Cup at home.
The 20-year-old striker says he is excited with the chance to make history with Brazil, but is not expecting anything new when the ball starts rolling at Wembley.
"Every match is important to me, whether it's a final or a league match," Neymar said. "It will be my first final with Brazil and I'm proud to be here representing the country in such an important moment like this, our first Olympic final in 24 years. But there are no secrets, really, it's final like any other, worth a title, so you have to play focused from the beginning to come out victorious."
Brazil are playing their third Olympic final but the first since the 1988 Seoul Games. It also played for the gold in the 1984 Los Angeles Games. The Brazilians earned their second bronze medal in 2008 in Beijing, and this time only the gold will do as it came to the London Games with most of its top players and as a favourite.
Neymar is the team's biggest star and one of its main leaders despite not having played many decisive matches with Brazil until now.
The skillful striker, who has a contract with Brazilian club Santos through the 2014 World Cup, helped Brazil's under-20 squad win the South American championship last year, a result that qualified Brazil for the London Olympics. But his only significant competition with the senior team was the 2011 Copa America, when Brazil was eliminated in the quarterfinals.
"He is continuing to develop and this is another important step for him and the other players," Brazil coach Mano Menezes said.
To win the gold on Saturday, Neymar said Brazil needs to keep it simple.
"There's no mystery," he said. "We have to keep doing what we have been doing so far in the tournament, it has been working."
Brazil has dominated the Olympic tournament from the beginning, winning all of its five matches and scoring three goals in each of them. Neymar had a sub-par performance in the opener against Egypt but improved and played well after that, scoring three goals and setting up several others.
He knows the Brazilian fans are expecting him to come up with another big performance in the final.
"My job is to help the national team win," Neymar said. "I'll be trying my best again in the final, either by scoring goals or setting up my teammates. No Brazilian has ever won this and I feel I'm prepared to help the team leave with the gold medal."
If Brazil does win, Neymar will be surpassing the Olympic achievements of former Brazil greats like Romario, Bebeto and Ronaldo. Romario and Bebeto got the silver in 1988, while Ronaldo left with the bronze in the 1996 Atlanta Games.
- More about:
- Europa League
- Latin America
- Olympic Stadium
- South America
- Stephen Carter