By Nelson Belen, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Only days before their debut match, the Brazilian national team’s (Seleção) Olympic football (soccer) coach Rogerio Micale, on Monday, August 1st, introduced Atlético Paranaense goalkeeper Weverton Pereira Silva as the team’s new goalkeeper. Weverton steps in as the last-minute replacement for injured goalkeeper Fernando Prass, who was forced to bow out of the 2016 Rio Olympics due to a fractured right elbow.
At Monday’s press conference, held at Brazilian Football Confederation (CBF) headquarters in Rio de Janeiro, a happy coach Micale revealed that Weverton was actually one of his first choices all along, insisting that the 28-year-old was “Plan A, not Plan B.”
An emotional Weverton expressed his happiness with his selection, exclaiming “I always dreamed of, but never thought I could be here today.”
The goalkeeper joins the Seleção while in the midst of a successful campaign with Atlético-PR in the Campeonato Brasileiro Série A. Weverton leads one of the league’s stingiest defenses, which has only allowed seventeen goals in just as many games.
The Seleção is in Group A of the Olympic football tournament, with South Africa, Iraq, and Denmark. The host team’s quest for its first-ever Olympic gold medal begins this Thursday, August 4th against South Africa, at Mané Garrincha Stadium in Brasília.
At the press conference, only four days before their first game, Weverton spoke about the challenges of rapidly integrating himself with the team.
“I do not expect anything other than intense work, everyone knows our objective, and responsibility we all have,” said Weverton. “We will look to adapt very fast. From what I saw, the Micale style is similar to what I have done in Atlético, with a modern game.”
Weverton replaces Fernando Prass, who had been one of the feel-good stories of the Olympics. In June, coach Micale surprised many football experts with his selection of the 38-year-old Palmeiras goalkeeper who had never played for the national team.
But it was not to be, as late last week, a fractured right elbow suffered during a team practice forced the veteran Prass to give up his Olympic dream. “I endeavored to realize the dream of being a player on the Brazilian national team. But, unfortunately, it will not be this time,” said Prass in a released statement.