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What’s wrong with Brazil’s Olympic soccer team?

Neymar (R) of Brazil helps teammate up during the men's group A football match between Brazil and South Africa at the 2016 Olympic Games, in Brasilia, Brazil, on Aug. 4, 2016. The match ended with 0-0 draw. (Photo by Xinhua/Imago/Icon Sportswire)
(Xinhua/Imago/Icon Sportswire)

From the outset of 2016, Brazil let us know that they are going to take the Olympic soccer tournament very, very seriously.

Brazil is especially focused on taking home the gold this year, as not only is the Olympics in their home nation, but the soccer Olympic gold remains the only major international trophy that Brazil has yet to win. Additionally, after the 7-1 drubbing Brazil took at the hands of Germany in their home World Cup semifinal, there seems to be a sense of duty among the players to do right by the fans.

While all teams try to win, the Olympics’ bizarre format doesn’t exactly lend itself to the best soccer. Teams are allowed to bring only under-23 players with the exception of three older age players, making for some bizarre chemistry.

However, Brazil of this year has potentially the greatest Olympic squad ever on paper. The team in its current form has star players like Neymar, Rafinha and Marquinhos, all of whom play for massive European clubs. Additionally, the Brazilian FA even kept players home from this summer’s Copa America (most notably Neymar) in order to keep them fresh for the Olympics. Thus, Brazilians took the pain of bowing out in the group stage of the Copa mercifully, hoping that Olympic medals were on the horizon.

Thus, it’s extremely concerning that through two games, the Brazilians have just two draws, and no goals. It’s even more concerning that those two draws came against South Africa and Iraq, two teams outside the top 50 for world rankings.

While Brazil played relatively well in both games, posting 41 total shots between the two contests and averaging 70 percent possession per game, they haven’t been able to secure victory. These are two teams that on paper, should bow to the almighty power of Brazil, while on the field, they’re hanging with them.

If Brazil were to fail at achieving the gold medal, after their bow out in the group stage of the Copa and the 7-1 defeat to Germany that still hangs heavy on the Brazilian populous, it would be disaster from the perspective of Brazilian soccer fans. In fact, with three major tournament defeats in the past three years, two of them coming on home soil, there’s an argument to be made that this is the darkest period in the history of Brazilian soccer. That is certainly not a time period that any of these players want to attach themselves to.

So what do they do to fix it?

In my mind, the answer is relatively simple: stop relying on Neymar. While the Barcelona wing is arguably a top-five player in the world, he is not Superman.

The Brazilians seem to have the idea that if they get he ball to Neymar and just let him work, everything will work itself out. Realistically, against a tournament of teams hell-bent on preventing Brazil from scoring, the Brazilians need to use their collective ability to break down opposing teams, and create goals, rather than expect Neymar to pull out individually brilliant performances every time he touches the field.

Luckily for the Brazilians, they still have a chance to make things right. Should Brazil defeat Denmark in their next game, the Brazilians would move on to the knockout round, thus keeping their gold medal hopes alive. Should they fail to do so, it will be a very dark day for the once proud Brazilian soccer team.

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