Olympics: Redemption beckons Neymar and Brazil in men's football final against Germany

Top: Neymar celebrating his second goal - and Brazil's last - against Honduras. He had also opened the scoring in the 15th second, the fastest goal ever scored at the Olympics. Left: Brazil's supporters had much to cheer at the Maracana on Wednesday.
Above: Neymar celebrating his second goal - and Brazil's last - against Honduras. He had also opened the scoring in the 15th second, the fastest goal ever scored at the Olympics. ST PHOTOS: KEVIN LIM
Top: Neymar celebrating his second goal - and Brazil's last - against Honduras. He had also opened the scoring in the 15th second, the fastest goal ever scored at the Olympics. Left: Brazil's supporters had much to cheer at the Maracana on Wednesday.
Above: Brazil's supporters had much to cheer at the Maracana on Wednesday.ST PHOTOS: KEVIN LIM

Brazil have chance to avenge World Cup walloping by Germany in Games final

It is the dream final that everyone in Brazil, and the country's Olympic team if they are being honest with themselves, want and tomorrow at the Maracana Stadium has already been billed as the redemption of Brazilian football.

The hosts will be there, having secured their spot following a 6-0 thrashing of Honduras in Wednesday's semi-final played on an unusually warm winter day in Rio that saw the boys in yellow produce a performance befitting the sunshine they were bathed in.

They will face Germany, who eased past 1996 champions Nigeria 2-0 in the other semi-final, and are in their first final appearance since the 1980 Moscow Games.

Many of the Selecao's fans have not and cannot forget the 7-1 hammering dished out by the Germans at the 2014 World Cup semi-final in Belo Horizonte. The Olympics might be an Under-23 competition - allowing three over-aged players - but revenge is at the forefront of Brazil's public consciousness.

To thicken the plot of the final's storyline, the Olympic gold is the only footballing honour to elude Brazil, which has five World Cups, eight Copa Americas and four Confederations Cups.

Or as engineer Leonardo Sousa, 32, holding the Brazil flag in his hand, puts it: "We've waited two years for this day. Now we can show them who are kings of football. We will beat them 7-1, no 8-1."

FOCUS IS THE KEY

If we play like we've did today, keep our focus and our fans come out to support us, I believe we can face any challenge and achieve that gold medal and make history for Brazil.

MARQUINHOS , Brazil centre-back.

Such confidence is born from that exhilarating attacking display against a helpless Honduras, whose squad of 18 feature only two players who ply their trade overseas.

Led by captain and forward Neymar, whose brace bookended Brazil's best game of the tournament, it was a far cry from the two drab goal-less draws against South Africa and Iraq that began their Games campaign.

Brazil have scored 12 goals in their past three matches with Neymar, who bore the brunt of the criticism for those poor early performances, contributing three goals and two assists.

It took the Barcelona forward only 15 seconds - the fastest goal ever scored at the Summer Games - to open the scoring against Honduras as he charged down a poor clearance and bundled the ball past onrushing goalkeeper Luis Lopez.

The capacity crowd at the 78,639-seater Maracana were on their feet again in the 25th minute as Manchester City's £27 million (S$47 million) new recruit Gabriel Jesus finished calmly to double Brazil's lead.

The forward, nicknamed the "new Neymar", and the original Neymar combined effectively on the left and the 19-year-old Jesus got his brace 10 minutes before the break when he latched onto the latter's through ball and fired his shot high into the net.

Jesus said: "We were lucky to score so quickly. It brought the fans to our side and it helps when you create this atmosphere at the beginning. We hope it'll be the same on Saturday in the final."

Further goals in the second half by defender Marquinhos (51st), forward Luan (78th) and an injury-time penalty by Neymar completed the rout and ensured the mood in Brazil was one of optimism.

It has also heightened expectations ahead of the grudge match against Die Mannschaft but Santos striker Gabriel Barbosa played down any talk of nerves.

"When you play for Brazil, there's pressure in every game. We felt it since the first group game and know the country is depending on us to win the gold medal. It's nothing new to us."

Brazil had made three previous finals (1984, 1988 and 2012) in the men's competition but lost all three. Neymar was in the side that was shocked 2-1 by Mexico at London 2012.

Talk of redemption and revenge was overblown, said centre-back Marquinhos. "But if we play like we've did today, keep our focus and our fans come out to support us, I believe we can face any challenge and achieve that gold medal and make history for Brazil," he said.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 19, 2016, with the headline 'Redemption beckons Neymar and CO'. Print Edition | Subscribe