KEIR RADNEDGE REPORTING —- Brazil must go out to beat Denmark in Salvador tonight to keep alive the nation’s dream of a first ever Olympic Games football gold medal and save Rio 2016 from being overshadowed by a cloud of depression similar to the one which blew up after the 7-1 World Cup disaster against Germany two years ago.
Denmark, despite bringing a makeshift squad to the Games after various withdrawals and club refusals, lead Group A with four points followed by Iraq and Brazil on two apiece and South Africa on one. Brazil have no wins and not even any goals from their opening two games and must put that right in the Estadio Fonte Nova.
It could be that a draw will be enough to carry Neymar & Co into the quarter-finals, depending on the result of the simultaneous other group game between Iraq and South Africa, but coach Rogerio Micale cannot rely on that.
He has admitted having had sleepless nights pondering how to change his team to find a magic touch in front of goal.
The likelihood is that he may replace ‘only’ Renato Augusto and Felipe Anderson in midfield with Walace and Luan.
The likely dropped pair may consider themselves unfortunate. Few players have played any better, only perhaps the attacking rightback Zeca and, in the first half against Iraq at least, striker Gabriel ‘Gabigol’ Barbosa.
Manchester City’s new capture from Palmeiras, Gabriel Jesus, was poor in the opening game against South Africa and worse against the canny and well-organised Iraqis.
Micale, in his pre-match press conference, defended Neymar whose form in the Games has been compared unfavourably by media and fans with that of women’s No10, Marta.
He said: “These are two great talents of Brazilian football but in the case of(Neymar we are talking about a 24-year-old who has yet to reach his footballing maturity. I think a player is at his peak at around 28. This young man already has to deal with pressure of having to be a leader and the sort of expectation which is not fair.
“For example, Ronaldo attended a World Cup and did not play (1994) and only then went on to become a great player. If you do not analyse all these things calmly as we move from one generation of players to another then they won’t want to be with us.
Price of failure
“Neymar wanted to be at the Olympics and take responsibility but he will be a better player in the future and we need to respect that. What we are trying to do with out young players is not easy. This worries me a lot as a coach because of the price they are paying. We need to stop always looking for scapegoats.”
For all that, Micale said: “We are confident that we can win and progress to the next round.”
It could all come down to the drawing of lots.
If teams in Group A (or any other group) are level on points, goal difference, goals scored and mutual result then their positions will be determined by a draw at FIFA headquarters in Rio de Janeiro half an hour after the games.