Barcelona superstar Neymar needed no more than 15 seconds to find the net in the 6-0 romp against Honduras on Wednesday and set Brazil en route to a rematch with Germany in the final of the men’s Olympic football tournament.
Brazil had no difficulty in thrashing the hapless Hondurans in the Maracana Stadium, while Germany earned their ticket to Saturday’s showpiece final in Rio de Janeiro by beating Nigeria 2-0 in the Corinthians Arena.
Brazilian football was rocked by the Selecao collapsing in a 7-1 defeat to Germany in the semi-finals of the home World Cup in 2014.
While Germany went on to lift the trophy, Brazil have endured two years of tough introspection, culminating in group-stage elimination from this year’s Copa America.
Their Olympic campaign did not start smoothly either, with Neymar criticized for his performance in two opening goalless draws. But they are now just one match away from winning their first-ever gold medal in Olympic football.
“I think we are going to deal with the pressure as we have done so far,” Brazil coach Rogerio Micale said. “We knew there would be a lot of pressure to win the gold medal as this would be an unprecedented achievement.
“We will work as we have done from the start and we will deliver results by striving to our absolute utmost. We will give our all – our football is not just about quality, but also perspiration which is why we can hope to make our big dream come true.”
Any nerves Brazil held in facing Honduras vanished straight after kick-off as Neymar pounced on a slack back pass. His initial shot was saved by keeper Luis Lopez but the rebound ricocheted off the forward and into the net for the fastest goal in Olympic history.
“The early goal helped a lot especially when you know you have to fight an opponent who is going to be defensive so to start by scoring a goal so early is very good,” Micale said.
“We played to our best in such an important game and with the problems of the heat I am delighted with the display.”
Gabriel Jesus added a quick-fire double in the 26th and 35th minutes before Marquinhos (51), Luan (79) and then Neymar, with an injury time penalty, completed the rout.
“This is what we wanted. We are fighting to conquer this,” Jesus said. Everything is in our favour as we are at home in Brazil.”
Germany’s victory was not nearly so clear-cut even though they also opened the scoring early through Lukas Klostermann’s ninth-minute tap-in. Nigeria spurned various chances before Germany re-established control in the second half and sealed the deal through Nils Petersen’s late strike.
“Is there anything more beautiful than playing an Olympic final at Maracana against Brazil? It is amazing, fabulous,” Germany coach Horst Hrubesch said upon guaranteeing a first men’s football medal since 1988.
“We have to enjoy and celebrate the final we have reached and this is what we are going to do.
“We will play offensive, we always play offensive. Let’s see if we are successful at the end.”
Nigeria face Honduras in the bronze medal match in Mineirao on Saturday.