2012 OLYMPICS | Brazil unfazed by pressure for 1st football gold against Mexico
August 9, 2012
LONDON (AP) – Brazil insists it’s unfazed by the pressure of having to win a first gold medal in football when it plays Mexico in the men’s Olympic final.
A silver medal will be considered a failure for Brazil as it arrived at the London Games with most of its top players and touted as the big favorite.
The Olympic gold is the only significant trophy Brazil has yet to win in football. Brazil hadn’t reached an Olympic final in 24 years.
Coach Mano Menezes says his players are not letting the pressure for victory affect their preparations and doesn’t think he will need to interfere to make sure they can keep their focus on Saturday’s final at Wembley.
“We’ve been dealing well with this process,” Menezes said. “I don’t think the players feel they have this weight on their backs because we don’t have this medal. And that’s great because it would be an unwanted obstacle for the team in addition to the one we will have on the field.”
Menezes said Brazil has matured as the competition progressed and the players understand the need to balance their emotions. He said they know there’s a need to win the gold, but they are not letting this responsibility turn against them.
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“They are not overly confident,” Menezes said. “I don’t think that I’ll need to have a talk with them about this, I could tell by the way the players behaved in the locker room after the South Korea win. They players were calm and lucid.”
Brazil defeated the South Koreans 3-0 in Manchester on Tuesday for its fifth straight victory in the Olympic tournament, and Menezes said the players understood that the job wasn’t finished.
“I don’t think I’ll have to worry too much about helping them control their emotions when we play the final,” he said.
Menezes gave the players the day off Wednesday and treated them to a barbecue at the team’s hotel in London, but they’ll have to get back to work for practice on Thursday.
The Brazilian coach praised Mexico’s team and said it has an advantage of having played with virtually the same squad in the last few years. He said Mexico was with this squad in last year’s Copa America and also won the gold at the Pan American Games with it.
“I’ve said from the beginning that I thought Mexico was the team which better prepared for the Olympic Games,” Menezes said. “They’ve already gone though all the necessary phases that a young team has to go through.”
Brazil came to the London Games as the main gold-medal contender because most of its top players make the tournament’s under-23 age limit, including Neymar, Oscar and Leandro Damiao. Brazil became even more favorite after Spain and Uruguay were eliminated in the first stage and host Britain lost in the quarterfinals.
The Brazilian football federation hinted before the competition that anything but the gold would likely cost Menezes’ job and prompt significant changes in the national team as it enters the final stretch of preparations for the 2013 Confederations Cup and the 2014 World Cup at home.
Brazil was the bronze-medalist in 2008, but hadn’t reached the Olympic final since the 1988 Seoul Games. It also won the silver in the 1984 Los Angeles Games and got another bronze in 1996 in Atlanta.
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