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  Rio 2016: Brazil demands gold from Neymar

Rio 2016: Brazil demands gold from Neymar

AFP
Published : Aug 20, 2016, 12:20 am IST
Updated : Aug 20, 2016, 12:20 am IST

Neymar’s road to redeeming Brazilian football hasn’t always been smooth, but the Barcelona star now has the scene he craved to deliver a first football gold medal for the Olympic hosts.

Neymar
 Neymar

Neymar’s road to redeeming Brazilian football hasn’t always been smooth, but the Barcelona star now has the scene he craved to deliver a first football gold medal for the Olympic hosts.

Saturday’s final against Germany — the side that has inspired much soul searching for Brazil since a 7-1 humiliation on home soil at the 2014 World Cup — in front of a full house at Rio’s iconic Maracana offers the chance to win Brazil’s most desired medal of the Games.

The embarrassment suffered two years ago only deepened the need for football-mad Brazil to right a perceived historical wrong at their own Games.

Olympic gold is the only football honour to have escaped five-time world champions Brazil. The legendary Ronaldo tried in 1996 and Ronaldinho in 2008 with both having to settle for bronze.

Neymar went one better in grabbing silver four years ago, but a shock defeat to Mexico in the final left Brazil feeling empty once more.

Now 24, Neymar is one of three overage players each country is allowed for the under-23 tournament.

So important was the need for Brazil’s best player of his generation to deliver in Rio that he was pulled from playing the Copa America Centenario in June to keep him fresh and Barcelona happy. “Neymar is a monster. He has the gift of playing football,” said Brazil coach Rogerio Micale.

Having the biggest star in the tournament allied to home advantage and rivals decimated by the fact European clubs didn’t want to release players so close to the start of their seasons, Brazil were expected to cruise to gold.

Location: Brazil, Rio de Janeiro