Much was expected of this Brazilian under-23 squad heading into the 2012 Olympics. They had some of the biggest emerging stars in football on their team and appeared ready to claim that elusive gold medal that Brazilian football had been lacking.
But that dream was destroyed today at Wembley Stadium.
Thanks to a brace from Oribe Peralta, Mexican football grabbed their first Olympic gold medal at the expense of the national side that is considered to be the greatest side ever in international football.
The 2-1 win that Mexico registered is an upset. Even though they were without emerging star Giovani dos Santos due to injury, Mexico proved that they will be a side to watch out for in the next decade with a dazzling performance at Wembley.
But the real story of this match will be the future of this Brazilian squad.
When this Brazilian team was announced, there were plenty of players listed that will be considered to be among the world's best for the next decade. The biggest of all these stars was Neymar, who is the best footballer currently plying his trade in South America.
After some dazzling performances with the Brazilian senior squad over the past two years and some unforgettable goals with Santos, Neymar was expected to continue that form in Great Britain in an Olympics he was poised to dominate.
Neymar did not prove to be the biggest Brazilian star in these games (the Olympic golden boot winner was Damiao), but the presence that Neymar contained shone above the rest of this squad.
But Brazil's failure to win gold is just a slight bump in a road for a group of individuals who will look to stake their claim at home in two years.
These collection of individuals showed us throughout this tournament that they will need those two years to grow collectively. Against the likes of Egypt and Honduras, Brazil proved unconvincing and were lucky to prevail in both fixtures.
Even if Brazil claimed gold today, those problems would still pose a roadblock for the 2014 World Cup.
This loss has already proven itself to be a humbling moment for these Brazilian players. Neymar said it best following the loss (via FIFA.com), “Losing like that is very tough to take, but at least we can draw on the experience of playing at an Olympics and learn from this final, even in defeat.”
What Neymar said must be used throughout the coming years. However, it will be interesting to see how Brazil's players will perform, considering they will participate in few meaningful international matches considering their automatic berth in the World Cup.
Brazil will have a great advantage playing at home during the World Cup, but that does not mean they will win the tournament.
Making sure the squad comes together despite various egos and styles of play will be integral for Brazilian success. Brazil should only get better, but with a vast collection of young stars poised to star in the World Cup paired with an already strong senior squad, various issues will arise.
After the loss, Real Madrid's Marcelo said (via FIFA.com), “The overall verdict on this campaign is positive...It’s hard to think that way right now, but it’s true. We have come here and won a medal with a young squad, one which has a lot of room to grow.”
Marcelo has the right attitude about the future of the Brazilian squad. Only time will tell if he is right.
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