Brazilians had a strong hope that "finally, the football team will conquer the gold medal".
And there were a few reasons for the optimism:
- few countries attach so much importance to football as Brazilians
- Brazil is pre-qualified to the World Cup 2014, hence, will not play as many official matches as other teams; the Olympics were a chance for the team (players and coach) to show they were on the good path to the World Cup
- because Brazil is renovating the team (see comments about the America Cup 2011 further below), since 2010 there had been a predominance of young players; so, Brazil was less affected by the restriction imposed by the Olympic Committee, that only three players could be aged over 23 years (the three older Brazilian players were Hulk, Thiago Silva and Marcelo)
- the Brazilian Confederation did everything to win the tournament; the team stayed in fine hotels, instead of sharing accommodation with other athletes; a prize cash would be paid, only if the team won the gold.
Brazil started hesitant, facing some difficulty to beat weak Egypt and Belarus; the team was improving along the tournament, and after beating South Korea in the semi-final, was the favourite to win the final match against Mexico.
Mexico, a decided underdog, played better and deserved the victory.
»Brazil 3 x 2 Egypt
»Brazil 3 x 1 Belarus
»Brazil 3 x 0 New Zealand
»Brazil 3 x 2 Honduras
»Brazil 3 x 0 South Korea
»Brazil 1 x 2 Mexico
Players: see full list of players.
Lineup in the final match against Mexico: Gabriel (GK); Rafael (Lucas), Thiago Silva (C), Juan, Romulo, Marcelo; Sandro (Pato), Oscar, Alex (Hulk); Neymar, Leandro Damiao.
Substitutes: Neto (GK), Bruno Uvini, Danilo, Ganso.
Coach: Mano Menezes (since 2010); see interviews before and after the Games.
In July 2011, Brazil played four matches in the America Cup 2011; Brazil lost the quarter-final match to Paraguay, and did not finish among the top four. Uruguay was the champion, and Paraguay was runner-up.
This was the first official tournament of the Brazilian team under the command of coach Mano Menezes; he took over in July 2010, and had not won any important match until then (there were already rumours about his being replaced by Felipe Scolari).
There was not much quarrel about the squad (see full list). In an interview before the Cup, Menezes declared that his intention was to mix veteran players (from the 2010 World Cup) with new promising players; more important than winning would be to consolidate the formation of the team.
The performance, however, was disappointing. Brazil couldn't score a single goal against Venezuela; Brazil was eliminated without even facing traditional rivals like Uruguay and Argentina. In the decisive match against Paraguay, Brazilian players missed four out of four penalty kicks.
»Brazil 0 x 0 Venezuela
»Brazil 2 x 2 Paraguay
»Brazil 4 x 2 Ecuador
»Brazil 0 x 0 Paraguay (0 x 2 shoot outs)
Players who performed in the match against Paraguay: Julio Cesar (GK); Maicon, Lucio, Thiago Silva, Andre Santos; Lucas Leiva, Ramires, Ganso (Lucas); Robinho, Neymar (Fred), Pato (Elano).
Substitutes who didn't perform: Jefferson (GK), Victor (GK), Daniel Alves, Adriano, David Luis, Luisão, Sandro, Elias, Jadson. Coach: Mano Menezes (since July 2010).
Looking at the performance of the team in the America Cup, the New York Times wrote: Brazilian soccer flirts with the ordinary.
On the other hand, many recognized the titles won by Brazil under Dunga, and praised the new Brazilian efficiency; under Dunga, players like Ronaldinho would have no privileges (like they had in 2006).
Truth is: nobody knew what to expect from the Brazilian team in the World Cup 2010; the team was among the favorites in the bookmakers, but fans still lacked confidence.
The team had troubles to win the matches which were supposed to be easy, against North Korea and Ivory Coast.
The goal-less match against Portugal was a relief, for it qualified Brazil to the next round.
Against Chile, Brazil played their best match in a long time; the victory renewed hopes that Brazil could win the World Cup.
Then came the match against Netherlands.
Brazil started ahead, with a goal by Robinho; Brazilians overwhelmed the Dutch the entire first half; a few minutes before the break, Kaka missed a goal by a few inches. Had one of the many chances been converted, Brazil would return to the second half with a two goals lead.
However, early in the second half, a nervous Brazilian defense makes a collective mistake which results in the equalizer; and a few minutes later a casual corner kick results in another goal by the Dutch.
Could Brazil win Netherlands? Sure. Would Brazil reach the final and win Spain? Possibly.
»Brazil 2 x 1 North Korea
»Brazil 3 x 1 Ivory Coast
»Portugal 0 x 0 Brazil
»Brazil 3 x 0 Chile
»Netherlands 2 x 1 Brazil