MEN’S FOOT­BALL

The Myanmar Times - - Sport -

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 heavy favourites to see off Hon­duras in to­day’s semi-fi­nals.

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

And Mar­quin­hos stressed that na­tional pride will over­rule the Brazil play­ers’ pay pack­ets for a squad that in­cludes 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 Au­gust 15 when pressed over how much each player would earn for land­ing gold.

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

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

And coach Jose Luis Pinto, who led Costa Rica to a shock run to the World Cup quar­ter-fi­nals in Brazil two years ago, warned Brazil they won’t just turn up and 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 of it,” said Pinto.

“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 again be bur­dened with the hopes of a home na­tion in need of some suc­cess af­ter strik­ing 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.

“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 back to the Mara­cana for the Au­gust 20 fi­nal, the fas­ci­nat­ing prospect of a re­match with Ger­many, just two years on from the hosts’ 7-1 maul­ing at the hands of the world cham­pi­ons in the World Cup semi-fi­nals, is in store as the Ger­mans take on Nige­ria in to­day’s other semi­fi­nal in Sao Paulo.

Ger­many have again been the freescor­ing 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.”

Nige­ria, mean­while, 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 Fed­er­a­tion hadn’t booked flight tick­ets in ad­vance.

Coach Sam­son Si­a­sia has also threat­ened to quit, claim­ing he hasn’t 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 that 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.” –

Pho­tos: AFP, EPA

Ney­mar, left, looks to lead the host team to their first foot­ball Olympic gold, but first they have to top the up­start Hon­duras squad, right, in to­day’s semi-fi­nal.

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