RIO DE JANEIRO: Brazil have named European-based Neymar (Barcelona), Willian (Chelsea) and Douglas Costa (Bayern Munich) in their preliminary squad of 35 players ahead of the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro in August writes KEIR RADNEDGE.
The men’s Olympic finals tournament is restricted to players aged under 23 but each coach has the option of adding three over-age players for the finals.
Most coaches avoid bringing in seniors so as not to disturb dressing room spirit but Brazil had always intended to include Barcelona’s Neymar, their one current superstar. He was omitted from the team which flopped at the Copa America Centenario by agreement with Barcelona who will release him – in return, albeit reluctantly – for the Rio Games.
Neymar had always said it was his intention to play in Rio. He has said he believes he “owes it” to Brazilian fans who were shocked when their favourites crashed 7-1 in Belo Horizonte in the semi-finals of ‘their’ World Cup two years ago. Neymar missed playing in that game through injury.
The Olympic men’s tournament starts on August 4 (the day before the Opening Ceremony) with the gold medal final in Maracana on Saturday, August 20 (the day before the Closing Ceremony).
Brazil, who have never won the Olympic title, have been grouped with South Africa, Iraq and Denmark. They will play two group games in Brasilia and then the third in Salvador.
The 35-player squad was chosen by Dunga before he was sacked by the Brazilian confederation after last week’s group stage exit from the Copa America Centenario in the United States.
If Willian is chosen for the Olympic finals squad by new boss Tite then the CBF may clash with Chelsea and the Blues’ new manager Antonio Conte since the new Premier League season starts on the weekend of August 13, midway through the Olympics. If Brazil go all the way to the final he would miss not only pre-season but the first two weekends of the season.
The Olympic Games football tournament is not included in the international calendar and thus national teams do not have the right to demand player release.
The other two over-age players included in the Brazilian preliminary squad are Paris Saint-German centre back Thiago Silva and the 37-year-old Palmeiras goalkeeper Fernando Prass.