Germany’s Olympic football team has finally arrived in the athletes’ village in Rio de Janeiro after a tour of Brazil taking in Salvador, Belo Horizonte, Brasilia and Sao Paulo.
Now the home nation Brazil awaits them in Saturday’s men’s final at Rio’s Maracana stadium in a match which has inevitably recalled the 2014 World Cup semi-final between the two nations, and the Selecao’s traumatic 7-1 defeat.
Following that victory in Belo Horizonte, Germany went on to beat Argentina in the Maracana to become world champions and are thus returning – albeit as the Olympic team without any current first-choice internationals – to the hallowed ground.
“What could be better than to play football in the Maracana? In a final, at the Olympics – and that against Brazil – to win a gold medal?” Germany coach Horst Hrubesch, the former German international centre forward, said.
“For the boys and me it is a dream come true.”
Germany have surprised themselves by advancing to the final for the biggest success for a German football federation DFB team at the Olympics, beating the bronze won in Seoul in 1988.
Hrubesch has managed to form a winning unit in just 21 days with little preparation. The Germans struggled at first, drawing with Mexico and South Korea before a 10-win over Fiji, but improved to drub Portugal 4-0 and defeat Nigeria 2-0 in the semi-finals.
Two years after the Germany’s triumph at the Maracana under Joachim Loew, the Olympic team can now become the second German side to win a men’s football gold after East Germany in Montreal in 1976.
Brazil are still suffering from the 7-1 hammering from Germany two years ago, as the German team has discovered from the boos and jeers they have received from home fans during the competition.
On Saturday, they are expecting a hostile reception from some 80,00 fans in the ground, but believe it is the home side around captain and Barcelona superstar Neymar who will be under pressure.
Bayer Leverkusen midfielder Julian Brandt said: “I think that it is a very awesome, inspiring feeling when you are booed by 80,000 fans, when the whole nation is against you. Brazil are under enormous pressure, they want to make good (for the World Cup defeat). We can play freely.”
The pressure on Brazil was noticeable earlier in the competition when Neymar and his team-mates came under fire after draws against South Africa and Iraq.
Since then form has improved with a 4-0 defeat of Denmark, a 2-0 victory of Colombia and a 6-0 thrashing of Honduras, which including a goal after 15 seconds by Neymar, the fastest in Olympic history.
Neymar has not responded to the criticism, and kept quiet after the semi-final defeat of Honduras. The striker will also be wanting to avenge the World Cup defeat to Germany, although he missed the game after being injured in the previous round against Colombia.
Coach Rogerio Micale has been doing the talking for him. “Neymar is happy, the group is there for him,” he said. “In the last few weeks he has had to put up with a lot.”
Brazil do not only have to make up for the World Cup, but for the recent Copa America Centenario when they went out at the group stage.
Anything other than a gold medal would be a failure.