Tuesday 11 December 2018

Neymar puts Brazil on brink of Olympic breakthrough

Neymar is the only name on anyone’s lips in Rio now
Neymar is the only name on anyone’s lips in Rio now

Matt Gatwood

If the pole vaulter Thiago Braz da Silva had become the hero of Brazil after his shock golden medal win on Monday night he can step back into the shadows now. Brazil is a football nation. And Neymar is the only name on anyone's lips in Rio now.

The Barcelona forward guided his country to a 6-0 hammering of Honduras in the Maracana yesterday that has Brazil one step from winning medals to match their iconic shirts. They have never won Olympic gold before. Neymar, of course, scored the first and the last. Gabriel Jesus added two and Marquinhos and Luan the fourth and fifth in the second half.

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It took Neymar all of 15 seconds to get the ball rolling when he hassled the Honduran defender Johnny Palacios, brother of Wilson, into undercooking a backpass to Luis Lopez. The goalkeeper rushed out, got to the ball first but could only hack into the Brazilian captain and watch as it bobbled in slow-motion back into his net. The crowd in the Maracana, still buzzing from singing the national anthem, erupted as one.

Neymar, not one to miss out on adding a dash of drama, picked himself up, celebrated, fell down, writhed in agony and was carried off on a stretcher. A minute later he ran back on to a huge cheer and was soon buzzing around like a little yellow wasp again.

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But this Brazil are not a one-man team, not quite. Gabriel Jesus, who Manchester City have signed for £27m from Palmeiras where he will carry on playing until December, was superb as was Luan, the Gremio forward. The golden trio tormented Honduras.

Brazil have not had the best home Olympics, the traditional spike has not been seen. Should Neymar and friends win this, though, all that will be forgiven.

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