By Nelson Belen, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – In a press conference at the Brazilian Football Confederation (CBF) headquarters in Rio de Janeiro on Wednesday (June 29th), coach Rogério Micale, announced the eighteen players who will play for the Brazilian Olympic national team in the upcoming 2016 Games. International stars Neymar and Douglas Costa, as well as local sensation Gabriel Barbosa, will lead the Seleção’s quest for its first ever gold medal.
The Olympic football (soccer) tournament is the only major international football competition that Brazil has never won. They have won the silver medal three times, at the 1984, 1988, and 2012 Games, and the bronze medal twice, at the 1996 and 2008 Games.
Just a short month ago, Dunga had been at the helm of both Brazil’s national and Olympic football teams. After his unceremonious firing two weeks ago following the national team’s embarrassing loss at the Copa América, Corinthians coach Adenor Leonardo Bacchi, known as Tite, stepped in as Dunga’s replacement to lead the Seleção.
The responsibility of leading the Olympic squad was handed to relatively unknown Rogério Micale, coach of Brazil’s National Under-20 youth football team.
At the press conference, Micale, accompanied by Tite, announced the eighteen-man Olympic team roster, with six players, including Neymar and Douglas Costa, coming from the European leagues, and the remaining twelve representing Brazil’s football league, the Campeonato Brasileiro.
Under current International Olympic Committee (IOC) regulations, Olympic football players must be under the age of 23, with each team having an exception for three overage players. Neymar and Douglas count as two of Brazil’s overage exceptions, with the remaining exception going to Palmeiras goalkeeper Fernando Prass.
When asked about Neymar, coach Micale, who has never worked directly with the international superstar, was looking forward to a face-to-face meeting between the two. “Neymar more than a world star is a human. A man with feelings and reactions as any of us,” Micale told the room full of reporters. “The conversation between us will be man to man,” he added, “I respect him and I’m sure he will respect the situation.”
Other players on Brazil’s roster include Barcelona midfielder Rafinha, Paris Saint-Germain defender Marquinhos, Lazio midfielder Felipe Anderson and Santos forward Gabriel Barbosa.
Brazil is in Group A of the Olympic tournament, along with South Africa, Iraq, and Denmark. The host team’s quest for gold begins on August 3rd against South Africa, at Mané Garrincha Stadium in Brasília.