London 2012: Brazil seeking first Olympic gold in men's soccer

AP, Wednesday 8 Aug 2012

It's the home of the beautiful game, and Pele and five World Cup titles. The iconic jersey has been worn by many of the world's best players, including Ronaldo, Ronaldinho, Romario and Bebeto


The one title that's missing is Olympic champion.

Yup, that's right. Brazil is seeking its first gold medal in men's soccer when it faces Mexico at Wembley Stadium on Saturday.

A silver medal will be considered a failure, but Brazil coach Mano Menezes said his players are focused on the country's first appearance in the Olympic final in 24 years.

"We've been dealing well with this process," Menezes said. "I don't think the players feel they have this weight on their backs because we don't have this medal. And that's great because it would be an unwanted obstacle for the team in addition to the one we will have on the field."

Menezes said Brazil has matured while advancing through the competition and the players understand the need to balance their emotions. He said they know there's a need to win the gold, but they aren't letting the expectations affect them.

"They are not overly confident," Menezes said. "I don't think that I'll need to have a talk with them about this, I could tell by the way the players behaved in the locker room after the South Korea win. They players were calm and lucid."

Brazil defeated the South Koreans 3-0 in Manchester on Tuesday for its fifth straight victory in the Olympic tournament, and Menezes said the players understood the job wasn't finished.

"I don't think I'll have to worry too much about helping them control their emotions when we play the final," he said.

Menezes gave the players the day off Wednesday and treated them to a barbecue at the team's hotel in London, but they'll have to get back to work for practice on Thursday.

The Brazil coach praised Mexico and said it has the advantage of having played with virtually the same squad in the last few years.

"I've said from the beginning that I thought Mexico was the team which better prepared for the Olympic Games," Menezes said. "They've already gone though all the necessary phases that a young team has to go through."

Brazil came to the London Games as one of top contenders because most of its top players make the tournament's under-23 age limit, including Neymar, Oscar and Leandro Damiao. Brazil became a bigger favorite after Spain and Uruguay were eliminated in the first stage and host Britain lost in the quarterfinals.

The Brazilian soccer federation hinted before the competition that anything but the gold would likely cost Menezes his job and prompt significant changes in the national team as it enters the final stretch of preparations for the 2013 Confederations Cup and the 2014 World Cup at home.

Brazil was the bronze medalist in 2008, but hadn't reached the Olympic final since the 1988 Seoul Games. It also won the silver in the 1984 Los Angeles Games and got another bronze in 1996 in Atlanta.

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