Brazil looks to capture 1st Olympic soccer gold

Brazil has a rich legacy in soccer, and some of the best players

in the game have proudly competed in its jersey. What it doesn’t

have is an Olympic gold.

Mexico, which faces the team Saturday in the men’s gold medal

game, believes that it will need an ”almost perfect” game to keep

the Brazilians from getting it.

Brazil is the favorite going into the game. The team is counting

on Neymar, a 20-year-old seen as the future of Brazilian soccer, to

do what many great players before him have tried and failed to

do.

”It’s our third chance to win this gold and hopefully we will

learn the lessons from the other finals we played and didn’t win,”

Brazil coach Mano Menezes said.

Mexico has motivation, too: The team is also trying for its

first Olympic title. Mexico coach Luis Fernando Tena loudly praised

the quality of the Brazilian team on Friday and said he expects

Mexico to have a lot of difficulties to try to win in the final at

Wembley.

”They have a (solid) player in each position, I wouldn’t even

try to point out a weak point,” Tena said. ”We have to play a

great game, almost perfect, if we want to win. It’s very important

to try to impose our game.”

Mexico will be playing in its first Olympic final after a

brilliant tournament run. Mexico’s previous best showing at the

Olympics was at the 1968 Mexico City Games, when it was beaten in

the bronze-medal match 2-0 by Japan.

The Mexicans arrived at the London Games with an outside chance

to win gold, while Brazil was considered the biggest favorite from

the beginning because it brought most of its top players to try to

win its first gold. Anything less will be considered a failure.

Mexico has won six of the last 12 matches against the Brazilians

since 1999, losing four and drawing two.

Mexico actually beat Brazil in the last time the teams played,

winning 2-0 in a game in the United States in June. Some of the

Mexican players at the Olympics were in that match too, as were

nearly all of the Brazilians who will be in Saturday’s final,

including young star striker Neymar.

”Neymar does worry us, but the rest of the team too,” Tena

said. ”Brazil is a very strong team. If you look at the squad, you

see they have players with great quality everywhere.”

The Olympics are also an important test for Brazil’s players,

most of whom will also likely be in the team trying to help Brazil

win next year’s Confederations Cup and the 2014 World Cup at

home.

Victory would give them an extra boost of morale and show fans

the national team is on the right track, while defeat could raise

doubts and even cost Menezes his job.

”We all know that we need to win the gold,” Menezes said.

”Brazil has to win every tournament it plays, it needs to win

every match it plays, even if it’s a friendly. And this time even

more because it’s something the nation has never won before.”

Brazil is playing in the Olympic final for the first time since

the 1988 Games, when the team led by Romario and Bebeto lost 2-1 to

the then Soviet Union. Brazil also lost the final four years

earlier in Los Angeles.

Bebeto, Ronaldo, Rivaldo and Roberto Carlos got the bronze at

the 1996 Atlanta Games, and Ronaldinho also finished third with

Brazil four years ago in Beijing, when the team lost to Argentina

in the semifinals. Ronaldinho also was in the team eliminated by

Cameroon in the quarterfinals of the 2000 Sydney Games. Brazil

didn’t qualify for Athens in 2004.

Coaches who tried and never got the gold include Mario Zagallo

in 1996, Vanderlei Luxemburgo in 2000 and Dunga in 2008.

”We came here for the gold and we are one match away from

getting it,” said Neymar, who has had three goals and several

assists in the team’s five victories. ”We just have to do our job

in the final.”

The Mexicans won’t be able to count on one of their top players,

Giovani Dos Santos, who injured his right hamstring in the

semifinals.

”It’s a shame that Giovani, who is a great player with a great

attitude, can’t play,” Tena said. ”It’s very painful for him and

sensitive for the team, but at the same time this team has shown

that it’s very mentally strong and can overcome many

adversities.”

The team will try and overcome that, he said.

”We have the silver in our hands but we are not content with

this, we are going for gold,” Tena said.

Associated Press writer Luis Ruiz in London contributed to this

report.

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