10 Reasons Why Brazil Are Still Good Value To Win Football Gold In Rio


The opening ceremony for Rio 2016 may not take place until Friday, but one sport clearly has no time for administrative niceties: the women's Olympic football tournament kicked off on Wednesday, with Sweden and Brazil among the winners.

The men get underway on Thursday, with the hosts likely to attract the lion's share of attention when they play South Africa in Brasília. Brazil are odds-on favourites at 1.85 to take gold this summer, with Argentina and Germany – the two next teams in the running – as long as 7.00 each. Brazil are as short as 1.25 finish on the podium, underlining their status as the team to beat.

Yet there still could be value in backing the Seleção. Here are ten reasons why:

 

1. The weight of history

Non-Brazilians might be somewhat surprised to learn that this most successful of footballing nations has never won the Olympic tournament before. But if you lived there, you'd definitely know about: the quest for gold has become something of a cause célèbre in recent years, hinting at a compelling completist's urge. In 2012, Brazil looked well equipped to break the hoodoo: with Neymar, Alexandre Pato and other emerging stars in the squad, they cruised through to the final, only to lose to Mexico at Wembley. This summer, they are determined not to make the same mistake again and will be going all-out for glory.

 

2. Is that... Neymar?

Brazil made their priorities crystal clear earlier in the year when they decided to leave Neymar out of their squad for the Copa América. That was a concession to Barcelona, who were only prepared to let him play in one summer tournament, and ensured his presence at Rio 2016. The forward is, by some distance, the biggest name in the competition and will be keen to put recent big-tournament disappointments (the 2014 World Cup, the 2015 Copa) behind him by firing his country to gold. He's also captaining the side, so there's no little responsibility on his shoulders... but if anyone can bear the weight, he can.

Neymar can be backed at 1.70 to score five goals or more this summer. 

 

3. In Jésus we trust

Manchester City fans have more reason than most to tune in to Brazil's games in the weeks ahead: teenage sensation Gabriel Jésus completed a big-money move to the Etihad on Wednesday afternoon and will be relishing the chance to impress his new employers. A pacy, skilful attacker capable of playing out wide and through the middle, he was in brilliant nick for Palmeiras before joining up with the Brazil squad, topping the domestic scoring charts with 10 goals in 14 games. There's no reason he cannot continue that exuberant form for his country.

Gabriel Jésus is 3.25 to outscore Neymar at the Olympics.

 

4. The kamikaze coach

After Dunga was fired for boring the life out everyone (for a second time), Brazil appointed ex-Corinthians coach Tite as their new boss this summer. But it's not him in the dugout this summer: youth coach Rogério Micale has been kept on for continuity. It looks like a good move: the 47-year-old is liked by the players, has a modern approach (he sends out training briefs via WhatsApp) and, most importantly, preaches a daring, attacking style of football that earned him the nickname 'Kamikale' at coaching school. With so many great forwards in the squad, he should be able to show what he can do.

 

5. Home comforts

Things may have gone awry the last time the Seleção played at home in a major tournament but there is a positive feeling over Micale's young side, meaning the fans should be onside this summer. Whether it's at the Mané Garrincha or the Maracanã, Brazil's players will not be short of support from the stands, which could make all the difference when the going gets tough. A few goals in their opening games would only increase the goodwill factor.

 

6. Goal machine Gabriel

There's not just one promising Gabriel in Brazil's attack this summer: Santos starlet Gabriel Barbosa will also be aiming to shine. The teenager is more of a pure finisher than his team-mate and has already opened his account at senior level, having been fast-tracked into the squad for the Copa América Centenario in the USA. He's been tipped for the top for years now and is believed to be close to sealing a move to Italy.

 

7. Case for the defence

The forward line may be the star for Brazil, but the defence is not too shabby either. Marquinhos will be well known to fans of European football, having shone for Paris Saint-Germain in recent seasons, and provides the muscle at centre-back alongside the studious Rodrigo Caio. Full-backs Zeca and Douglas Santos have been regulars in the Campeonato Brasileiro for some time and will provide plenty of thrust down the flanks, while defensive midfielder Thiago Maia is a strong protective shield. This side shouldn't be torn apart like the senior side has been on occasion recently.

Brazil are 1.56 to beat South Africa without conceding a goal.

 

8. Family affair

The star of the midfield will be Barcelona's Rafinha, a player who has had to bide his time at club level but has been a regular for his country at youth level. He will be charged with linking up with (and covering for) Neymar down the left and has all the ability to be one of the tournament's standout players. If Brazil win, he will be able to swap war stories with his dad, Mazinho, who won the 1994 World Cup with the Seleção.

 

9. Age is only a number

Neymar isn't the only player with heaps of experience in Brazil's squad: their other two overage players – Renato Augusto and Weverton – will bring leadership. The former, an all-action attacking midfielder, had a spell at Bayer Leverkusen earlier in his career and was a regular for Brazil under Dunga, even after swapping Corinthians for Beijing Guoan earlier this year. Goalkeeper Weverton was a late addition and has been around the block in Brazil – although the man he replaced, Fernando Prass, was even more worldly at 38.

 

10. Where's the competition?

Not every country is taking this as seriously as Brazil. A glance at this summer's squads illustrates the point: while there are plenty of talented youngsters aiming to catch the eye, the list of over-23 players is far from a roll call of global superstars. Germany have the Bender twins and Nils Petersen. Argentina picked Gerónimo Rulli and Víctor Cuesta. Sweden, Portugal and Denmark have not brought a regular senior international between them. It would be misguided to read too much into the rosters alone, but a certain level of ambivalence is palpable.