By Jay Forte, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Earlier this month Brazil’s football (soccer) head coach Dunga traveled to Europe to negotiate and secure some of the nation’s top players – including Barcelona star Neymar – for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games in August. Neymar had already said he wants to represent Brazil in the Rio 2016 Games, and is now hoping his club will also release him for the Copa America.
Asked about this in early March, Dunga said: “I would hope that it’s true. It’s good for a player to want to be in the Brazilian football museum and when their families walk by, they can say, ‘My name’s there. I won.’”
Yet speaking at a press conference on March 3rd – who himself was a silver medallist at the Los Angeles 1984 Olympic Games – said it was necessary to have the agreement of the clubs.
“The player spends the majority of their time with their club and a very short period with the national side. We have to deliver these players to their clubs in the best condition. We don’t want to exhaust anyone.”
On March 25th it was reported that Neymar admitted he has ‘made it clear’ he wants to represent Brazil at both Copa America and the Rio Olympics this summer ‒ but concedes it is out of his control. “The will of the player always prevails, but in this case it’s a little different as it doesn’t only depend on me. […] I’ve made it clear I want to play in both, but it’s something Dunga and Luis Enrique are discussing and nothing’s been decided yet.”
The Copa America is a hundred year old contest with sixteen teams playing 32 games across ten cities across the U.S., and in 2016 it will be the first time the tournament is held outside of South America. Last year it was held in Chile, and the home team beat Argentina in a scoreless regular time penalty kick shootout (4×1).
The 2016 Copa America begins on June 4th and ends on June 26th, just a month before the Olympic Games (August 5th – 21st). The host cities will be; Chicago (IL), East Rutherford (NJ, just outside of New York City), Foxborough (Boston, MA), Glendale (outside Los Angeles, CA), Houston (TX), Orlando (FL), Pasadena (outside Los Angeles, CA), Philadelphia (PA), Santa Clara (CA) and Seattle (WA).
In the 2012 Olympic Games in London, Brazil lost 2-1 to Mexico in the finals, finishing runner-up for the third time. The five-time FIFA World Cup champions have never won Olympic gold.