London: Brazil haven’t been this close to the gold medal in football since Romario was a young promising star in the late 1980s. Many great players have tried and failed after him, including the likes of Rivaldo, Roberto Carlos, Ronaldo and Ronaldinho.
Now it will be up to Neymar, the future of Brazilian football, to try to end decades of frustration and give the nation their first gold, the only trophy missing in football for the five-time world champions.
Brazil are the favourites going into Saturday’s final at the Wembley Stadium against Mexico, a team who have had unusual success against their Latin American rival in recent years and will also be looking for their first Olympic gold.
Anything but the gold will be considered a failure for Brazil, who established the London Games as the team’s priority this year and brought most of their top players for the competition.
The Olympics are also an important test for the players, most of them will also likely be in the team trying to help Brazil win next year’s Confederations Cup and the 2014 World Cup at home.
Victory would give them an extra boost of morale and show the fans that the team are on the right track.
Defeat could raise doubts and even cost the job of coach Mano Menezes as criticism will pour in from all across Brazil. “We all know that we need to win the gold,” Menezes said. “Brazil have to win every tournament they play, they need to win every match, even if it’s a friendly. And this time even more because it’s something we have never won before.”
The man carrying the team’s expectations is 20-year-old Neymar, touted by some to potentially become the world’s best player in the world.
“We came here for the gold and we are one match away from getting it,” said Neymar, who has been playing up to expectations so far with three goals and several assists in the team’s five victories so far. “We just have to do our job in the final.”
But Brazil will be facing an opponent, who have been creating problems for them in recent years.
Mexico have won six of the last 12 matches against the Brazilians since 1999, including that year’s Confederations Cup final. It lost only four of those games and drew two.