LONDON — Brazilians looked dejected with the silver medals around their necks after the men’s Olympic football final. They recognised it as a huge defeat.
Not only did Brazil miss winning its first gold in football, but its 2-1 loss to Mexico on Saturday also raised doubts about the future of the national team just two years ahead of the World Cup it will host. The players acknowledged the defeat was a blow to their morale, but remained confident they’ll get over it quickly.
Coach Mano Menezes said the team’s preparations will stay on track, although his job is not secure after Brazil’s failure despite being the heavy favorite to win the competition. Menezes may not be the one leading them by then, as the Brazilian football federation still hasn’t said that it will keep him. The federation hinted before the competition that a disappointing result at the Olympics could cost Menezes’ job, but a decision is not expected until the team returns to Brazil later this week. The Olympic tournament was seen as a big test for Brazil’s young team. Most of its top players made the tournament’s under-23 age limit and had the chance to show fans back home that they can be capable of leading the senior team at the World Cup in two years.
Captain Thiago Silva, one of the three players older than 23, said a victory would have helped improve the team’s confidence, but the defeat shouldn’t be seen as a sign that everything is wrong with the team that came to London. “It’s not the end of the world,” he said. “We learned many lessons just by being here and we showed our potential by reaching the final.” Neymar was one of the players who felt they missed their only chance to try to win an Olympic gold medal, which made the loss that much more difficult, but he also wasn’t lamenting the setback too much. “We have to keep our heads high and move on,” said Neymar, touted to be carrying Brazil’s hopes in the future. “The World Cup is still a long time away, a lot of things can still happen until then, there’s time. We wanted to win the gold, that’s why we came here, but it didn’t happen and we just move on.” Menezes said the players should be given credit just for reaching the final. He had acknowledged, however, that the gold medal would have helped the team take an important step trying to restore its status as a winner in world football.
Brazil was one of the most dominant nations in football in the 1990s and early 2000s, winning three World Cup titles and two Confederation Cups. It also reached another World Cup final and won four Copa Americas from 1997-2007. But the five-time world champions haven’t had much success since their elimination in the quarterfinals of the 2006 World Cup in Germany. It also fell in the quarters in 2010 in South Africa and last year in the Copa America in Argentina. Brazil’s last major title was the 2009 Confederations Cup, and since then Spain emerged as the dominant football force with a World Cup title and consecutive Euro Championships. Brazil will play a friendly against Sweden in Stockholm on Wednesday before returning home. Menezes said Saturday two players from the Olympic squad will not make the trip, Paulo Henrique Ganso and Bruno Uvini. Left back Marcelo was already ruled out because he was sent off in Brazil’s latest friendly. Chelsea defender David Luiz, his teammate Ramires and Corinthians midfielder Paulinho will also be available for the match.