Brazil didn't expect to fail again at the Olympics
Blame lies with their coach's selections
14 August ~ For the tens of thousands of Brazilian fans ambling up Wembley Way before kick-off on Saturday, the result was hardly in doubt. The Seleção were certain to beat a young Mexico side deprived of its best players – Giovani dos Santos by injury, Javier Hernández by Sir Alex Ferguson – and end an Olympic hoodoo stretching back 50 years. Mexico may have been the on-pitch opponents for the day, but the real victory was to be struck against history. The optimism lasted barely half a minute, Rafael's careless pass allowing Oribe Peralta to surge forward and fire past Gabriel.
The goal was greeted by open mouths, which soon began to mutter a slew of Portuguese swear words. That wake-up call failed to stir a sluggish Brazil.
Much of the blame lay on the shoulders of coach Mano Menezes, who regressed into the lopsided, mix-and-match conservatism that marked both the team's shoddy Copa América campaign (in which Brazil only won one match) and Dunga's reign as head coach.
With Hulk left on the bench, Alex Sandro (a left-back) played in midfield, while Rômulo (a central midfielder) was charged with stretching the play on the right.
Menezes, whose popularity has waxed and waned during his two years in charge, at least had the guts to rectify this error early by throwing on Hulk before the interval. By then the dye was cast. The second half brought improvement in attack but familiar defensive weaknesses proved costly.
Despite the efforts of Thiago Silva and Marcelo – two of the three overage players selected by Menezes – the Seleção were cut open repeatedly on the break, with young centre-back Juan particularly culpable. Peralta profited from some slack marking to double Mexico's lead, meaning that Hulk's late goal was irrelevant.
The Brazilian press was in an unforgiving mood following the loss. "Brazil repeat the fiasco of '84 and ‘88," Folha de São Paulo said, alluding to past Olympic final failures. The broadcaster Globo pandered to the Brazilian penchant for mysticism and invoked an "Olympic curse". Some journalists questioned Neymar's ability to produce on the big occasions.
Responsibility stops at Menezes, whose greatest error was probably in the selection of the squad itself. With such riches in attack, he could have afforded to leave out Hulk (the third over-23 player) in favour of a stronger centre half to partner Thiago – David Luiz or Dedé of Vasco da Gama would have been the obvious choices.
That Menezes failed to replicate the gung-ho nature of this decision in his starting 11 was the greatest frustration of a hugely disappointing afternoon for Brazil. Jack Lang