Barcelona star Neymar will lead a young Brazil Olympic side out in the final on Saturday night, with Germany standing between them and the glory of securing the nation’s first Olympic football title. Considering the array of talent Brazil have had at their disposal over the years, it’s surprising that they’re yet to win gold in this competition, but they will get few better chances.
When the respective Squads were announced for this summer’s Copa America and Rio Olympics, the inclusion of Neymar in the latter demonstrated where Brazil’s priorities lie. As host nation there would be little more satisfying than winning gold medals, especially after failing to win their ‘home’ World Cup in 2014. It’s a twist of irony then that their opponent in the final is the same nation that dumped them so cruelly out of that competition two years ago.
Germany’s emphatic 7-1 semi final victory will live long in the memory as one of the greatest World Cup victories ever. This Olympic games – restricted to players under the age of 23 plus three over-age stars – may not be the full-scale revenge that Brazil will hope for in the future, but it is an opportunity to get one over the country that left their World Cup dreams in tatters.
Neymar was instrumental in that particular tournament up until the injury in the quarter final against Colombia which kept him out of the semi final, and the man who is widely regarded as Brazil’s best player has the chance to put things right. His influence on this team has grown throughout the tournament, and after opening the scoring in the quarter final, he did the same in the semi final with the fastest goal in Olympics history after just 14 seconds.
Germany will provide stiff opposition after a good tournament of their own, and it also may come as something of a surprise that they have also never won Olympic football gold. The current World Champions of senior football, Germany have a great deal of young talent in the Olympic squad with Arsenal’s Serge Gnabry standing out as their player of the tournament. It promises to be a tough encounter, but one suspects that having come this far, Brazil will not throw away the chance to claim the title in front of their own fans.
We predicted that Brazil would beat the -1.5 handicap against Honduras in the semi final, but few could have predicted the 6-0 thrashing that followed Neymar’s opening goal. The quick-thinking forward latched onto an under-hit back pass almost straight from the Honduran kick off and smuggled the ball past the onrushing goalkeeper. Manchester City new-boy Gabriel Jesus then added another two to take Brazil into half-time with a healthy 3-0 advantage. Marquinhos and Luan added two more in the second half, before Neymar’s injury-time penalty wrapped up a majestic result.
The performance was a long way from those given at the start of the competition when Brazil were held to 0-0 draws by South Africa and Iraq in the group stage. This team has grown into the competition though, and a 4-0 win over Denmark in the last group game set the tone. They went on to defeat Colombia 2-0 in the quarter final, and are yet to concede a goal in the competition.
It was a similar story for Germany in the group stage as they were held to a 2-2 draw with Mexico and a 3-3 draw with South Korea. However, a 10-0 walloping of Fiji saw them through to the quarter finals, where they overcame Portugal with an impressive 4-0 win. They were pitched against Nigeria in the semi final and Klostermann’s 9th minute goal set them on the way. Nigeria tried to play on the counter-attack but the German defence stood firm against breakaways and the game was settled by Peterson’s 89th minute goal, securing the 2-0 win.
The Final Match Preview
Brazil are rated a -200 chance with Paddy Power to lift the trophy, and that may appeal to the more conservative punters out there.
We’re going to stick our necks out a little and back Brazil to win in 90 minutes at +110 with Coral
It might seem unusual to refer back to the World Cup mauling by Germany, when this is essentially a very different squad in a very different competition, but that matters little to Brazil fans. When the result against Honduras appeared to be in the bag, those present at the Maracana Stadium sent up the cry of “Germany, just you wait, your time is coming.”
That 7-1 beating left a permanent scar on Brazilian football, and this final is seen in no uncertain terms among supporters as a big chance of revenge. That lends an extra edge to what should be a cracking game, but regardless of those emotions, Brazil are deserving favourites. In Neymar they have one of the world’s best players, and in Gabriel Jesus one of the country’s brightest young talents. They haven’t let in a single goal in five Olympic matches, and they will have ferocious support from the home crowd.
Germany’s player of the tournament has been Serge Gnabry, but he struggled to get games at Arsenal last season, and is a world away from Neymar, who was one of Barcelona’s best players last term. They have been well drilled as you would expect from the Germans, and after conceding five in their first two games, are now three Olympic matches without letting in a goal. They’ve dominated possession in each of those games though, and it is highly unlikely that they will enjoy anywhere near as much of the ball against this Brazil team.
At a price above evens, there is plenty in Brazil’s favour to win the match and avoid extra time or penalties.
Brazil to beat Germany
Saturday 20th August, 21:30 GMT