Neymar’s wish is Dunga’s command: the Brazilian coach has chosen the Barcelona star – keen on winning an Olympic gold medal at home – as one of three over-age players to represent the Seleção at Rio 2016.
As per Olympic rules, each participating nation is only allowed three players over the age of 23 in its squad, and Neymar will be 24 in February (goalkeeper Alisson and defender Miranda will join him as Brazil’s two other over-age selections). As one of three special allocations, he will need Barcelona’s permission to play.
Barça is no doubt already well aware of Neymar’s desires, as the crack forward has been very vocal about his intentions to help the Canarinho break its home jinx for a very long time. “I already imagine myself playing in the Olympic Games in my own country,” he stated last January. “It will be a dream come true. I’ve had the opportunity to play in the Confederations Cup and the World Cup in Brazil. So now the Olympic Games is all that’s missing. It will bring me a lot of joy.”
It will bring him a lot of joy. Hm…Well yes, maybe, unless gold-medal winning Mexico has anything to say about it (again). The Olympics is the only major international tournament that Brazil has yet to win, this despite coming within a match of gold-tinted glory at London 2012, where El Tri became the unlikely victor at Wembley Stadium thanks to a doblete from Oribe Peralta.
I remember that game like it was yesterday. Neymar probably does too. Oribe’s opener came just 29 seconds into the match – after Javier Aquino stole the ball away from Sandro and poked it through – and a foul drawn by Hector Herrera on the edge of the box led to a free kick. Then came Oribe’s smashing header 15 minutes from fulltime and a 2-0 scoreline. Hulk scored with seconds left on the clock, but it was too little too late. Another year, another missed opportunity for Neymar and Brazil. To be honest, Neymar might as well have been a no show in the final, because his presence was largely missing.
If Neymar has his way in Rio, Brazil will end its recent run of disappointment, hopefully hindering any future desires on the part of the country’s government officials to enact national days of reflection (we’ll never forget the fact that they made July 8 a national holiday commemorating the 7-1 defeat received at the hands of Germany: “Día del gol de Alemania”).