Medals over pay packets

The host nation's hopes of advancing to the final will once again rest on the shoulders of Neymar. The Brazil skipper will be looking to add more goals to his tally against Honduras, having only opened his Games account against Colombia in the last eight.
The host nation's hopes of advancing to the final will once again rest on the shoulders of Neymar. The Brazil skipper will be looking to add more goals to his tally against Honduras, having only opened his Games account against Colombia in the last eight. PHOTO: REUTERS

Brazil put aside talk of bonuses to focus on Honduras

RIO DE JANEIRO • Brazil's dream of a first football Olympic gold medal will not be blown off course by a row over bonus payments, insists defender Marquinhos, with the hosts heavily favoured to see off Honduras in the semi-finals (tomorrow, Singapore time).

After touring around the country in Brasilia, Salvador and Sao Paulo, Brazil finally roll into Rio de Janeiro for their third consecutive Olympic semi-final, expecting to sweep aside the Central American outsiders in front of a full house at the iconic Maracana Stadium.

Marquinhos stressed that national pride will overrule the Brazil players' pay packets for a squad including multi-millionaires like Barcelona's Neymar and Rafinha.

"We do not talk about bonuses. We have not reached a definite value (with the Brazilian federation)," Paris Saint-Germain's Marquinhos said on Monday, when asked how much each player would earn for landing a gold.

"The dream for me, the team and the fans, is to be champions."

  • 19
    Germany's goals after four matches, including four against Portugal in the quarter-finals.

    6
    Brazil's goals so far.

    0
    Brazil's goals in the first two matches.

Honduras have already seen off South American heavyweights Argentina to reach the last four and are just one win away from making history by securing the nation's first-ever Olympic medal.

Their coach, Jorge Luis Pinto, who led Costa Rica on a shock run to the World Cup quarter-finals in Brazil two years ago, warned Brazil not to expect to win thanks to "the colour of their shirt".

"We know that the Brazilian fans will support their team for 90 minutes, but we will have the mental and emotional control," he said.

"I am very respectful of Brazilian football but today you can't win due to the supporters or the colour of your shirt."

Neymar will once more be burdened with the hopes of a nation in need of success, despite scoring just one goal in four games so far.

The 24-year-old's Olympics finally came to life with his first goal of the tournament in a 2-0 quarter-final win over Colombia.

However, Pinto insists he has a plan to thwart Brazil's golden boy.

He said: "I am thinking a lot about Neymar and how I can control him. I'm looking for that player to mark him."

Should Brazil make it through to Saturday's final, the fascinating prospect of a rematch with Germany is in store. Just two years ago, the hosts were mauled 7-1 at the hands of the world champions in the World Cup semi-finals. The Germans take on Nigeria in today's other semi-final in Sao Paulo.

Germany have again been the free-scoring side in Brazil, netting 19 times in just four games, including a 4-0 destruction of Portugal in the quarter-finals.

"We are very glad that the win against Portugal ended up being by such a high margin," said Hoffenheim right-back Jeremy Toljan. "With that we have made a huge statement to the other three teams who are still left in the tournament."

Their opponents, Nigeria, have overcome organisational chaos off the field to reach the semis.

The Africans arrived in Brazil just hours before their opening 5-4 win over Japan last week after being stranded for several days at their training base in Atlanta because the football federation had not booked flights in advance.

Coach Samson Siasia has also threatened to quit, claiming he has not been paid his salary "for the past five months".

"It was a bit frustrating coming down here, but while we were in Atlanta, we knew we had a good shot at getting to the final or winning the tournament," said Nigeria captain and Chelsea midfielder John Obi Mikel.

"With the problems we have had, getting to this stage is just absolutely amazing and we just have to keep going."

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 17, 2016, with the headline 'Medals over pay packets'. Print Edition | Subscribe