OLYMPICS Can Neymar lead the Selecao to glory?
defeat to Germany at their own World Cup two years ago and a group stage exit at the Copa America Centenario in June.
Golden boy Neymar has been untarnished by the failures.
Two broken vertebrae in his back suffered near the end of a quarter-final win over Colombia left Brazil without their talisman against the Germans two years ago.
And as part of an agreement between Barcelona and the Brazilian federation, Neymar skipped the Copa America – which sealed Dunga’s fate as Brazil coach for the second time – to ensure he is fresh for the Olympics.
Rogerio Micale will take charge after leading Brazil to the under-20 World Cup final last year. Like the fans he also expects Neymar to deliver.
“I want to be dependent on Neymar,” he says. “What coach in the world would not want a Neymar in their team?
“Neymar has exceeded my expectations. He is appreciated. He’s a good guy with a huge heart especially around the younger players.
“He has shown that he is more than just a great player – he’s a great man admired by everybody.”
Neymar was part of the Brazil side shocked by Mexico in the final of the 2012 Olympics, whilst even the likes of Ronaldo and Ronaldinho have come up short when charged with delivering gold.
However, Brazil are strong favourites to end their wait, as on top of home advantage they also possess by far the strongest squad on paper.
Each team is restricted to just three players over the age of 23 in their 18man squads.
Wonder kids Gabriel Barbosa and Gabriel Jesus, both tipped to make big-money moves to Europe from Santos and Palmeiras respectively after the Games, will support Neymar in attack.
Meanwhile, Paris Saint Germain defender Marquinhos and Neymar’s Barcelona teammate Rafinha are also among Micale’s squad.
Brazil open their campaign against South Africa in Brasilia, one of six Olympic football host cities, before facing Iraq and Denmark in Group A. –