Despite being a perennial powerhouse in soccer, Brazil have yet to experience a gold-medal finish at the Olympics. The Olympic soccer tournament is the only international competition sanctioned by FIFA Brazil has never won.
This could be the year Brazil climbs to the top of the podium, as the team will have home court advantage throughout the 2016 Rio Olympics. But before the Canarinhos start thinking about the gold medal match on August 20, they must first get past three other national squads in the earlier rounds.
Brazil is in Group A of the Olympic soccer tournament alongside South Africa, Iraq and Denmark. The teams will play each other only once. The top two teams will then move on to the next round. Brazil’s first match is against the scrappy South African side coached by Owen Da Gama.
Brazil will be captained by scoring ace Neymar. The FC Barcelona striker is just 24 years old, but he is currently the fifth highest goal scorer in the history of the Brazilian men’s national soccer team. Neymar has tallied 46 goals in 70 appearances for Brazil.
Da Gama is aware of Neymar’s potency on the offensive side of the field. South America will try to neutralize him by playing total team defense.
“Brazil are a good team, with Neymar they will be dangerous, but as long as you believe, you can achieve something – and we strongly believe something good will happen,” Da Gama told South African reporters, via Goal.com. “The pressure is on them, as they failed at major international events. We will defend as a collective. We can’t single out Neymar.”
South Africa will be in full force during their opening match against Brazil. The team has no injury concerns heading into Thursday’s showdown. De Gama will rely on players like Itumeleng Khune, Lebo Mothiba, Keagan Dolly and Gift Motupa to help Bafana Bafana pull an upset over the Canarinhos.
Brazil and South America will duke it out at the Estádio Nacional Mané Garrincha on Thursday. The game will start at 3 p.m. ET. Soccer aficionados can watch the game live on NBCSP, as per Los Angeles Times. More live stream and TV schedule are available on Live Soccer TV.