KEIR RADNEDGE in LONDON: Assumptions from outsiders that footballers and their managers at the Olympics are not under comparable pressure to the rest of their professional lives are wide of the mark – and crucially wide of the mark in the case of Mano Menezes.
The national coach of five-times World Cup-winners Brazil is also manager of the Olympic team and he is all to well aware that his prospects of leading his country as hosts into the 2014 World Cup rest on the outcome of the Olympic football final against Mexico at Wembley.
Menezes has been told, specifically, by confederation president Jose Marin that, should Brazil fail to win Olympic gold for – remarkably – the first time in their history then he need not bother coming back to his office in Rio de Janeiro next week.
However Menezes insisted ahead of the final that he enjoyed the pressure and the uncertainty of what the next day could bring.
He said: “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.”
Menezes even denied that Brazil were favourites – as they have been ever sine before the finals and even more particularly since Spain were eliminated in the group stage.
He said: “I don’t believe in favouritism in football. Both teams have done a good job to get to the final and we are going to play against Mexico with the same respect that we have shown to all the other teams.”
The danger for Brazil is that, to the Mexicans,this is potentially the most important game in their history.
Menezes said: “It’s true that this is not the most important football match in our (Brazil’s) history. But it is the most important match for the Brazil players who play tomorrow. But we will go back to the spirit of football which is that the beat team should win. Hopefully we will help make it a good final.”
Brazil hope to have midfielder Ganso fit after the highly-rated youngster missed the last two matches with a thigh injury.
Mexico are appearing in the final for the first time, Brazil for the third: they lost in the final in both 1984 and 1988. But, as Menezes said: “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 at Wembley.”
The final facts
Brazil or Mexico will become the 18th different NOC to win the men’s Olympic football gold medal;
Brazil are looking for their first gold medal in men’s football. They have won two silver and two bronze;
Brazil have reached the Olympic final in this event for the first time since 1988, when they lost 2-1 (aet) to the Soviet Union in Seoul;
Brazil’s only other appearance in the final was the 2-0 defeat to France in Pasadena in 1984;
Brazil have scored three goals in each of their five matches at the 2012 London Games;
Leandro Damiao is the top scorer in the tournament with six goals, netting four times in Brazil’s last two knockout stage matches;
This could be the third consecutive Olympic Games where the winners are South American, Argentina having won in both 2004 and 2008;
Mexico could win their second international title, after the 1999 Confederations Cup;
Mexico have reached the Olympic final for the first time in this event;
Mexico’s best previous finish was fourth when they hosted the Olympic Games in 1968;
Mexico have won three of their past five international matches against Brazil, including their last meeting – a 2-0 friendly victory on June 3.
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