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Brazil and Neymar are scary‚ but the pressure is on them - Da Gama

By Marc Strydom | 2016-07-26 14:13:21.0

Brazil including Neymar is scary‚ but the pressure is on the hosts‚ said South Africa Under-23 coach Owen Da Gama‚ exhorting his team to try for another Olympic Games shock of the world’s most famous football team.

The SA U-23s arrived in Brasilia for the 2016 Rio Olympics on Sunday.

They meet Brazil in their opening game on Thursday next week (August 4) at the capital’s 72 000-seater Estadio Nacional Mane Garrincha.

Da Gama said his side are aware how important a result in the first group stage game of a major tournament is.

The U-23 coach hopes pressure on the hosts – always heightened in an opening game – can help his side achieve a repeat of one of SA national teams’ most famous results – the 3-1 victory at the 2000 Sydney Olympics over a Brazil side containing Ronaldinho‚ Alex and Edu.

“We’ve always planned that the first match is where we have to focus‚” Da Gama said to a Brazilian press curious for knowledge on their side’s opening-game opponents.

“And the expectations are scary. Because we know Brazil are a very good team. With Neymar there as well they are going to be a fantastic team.

“But we believe that as long as you believe‚ something can happen in football. And we believe strongly. We’re working very hard. And I think there is a lot of pressure on Brazil.

“After the Copa America‚ now this. We believe the pressure is on Brazil – it’s not on us.

“The fact that South Africa beat Brazil in Sydney is just a further motivation.”

The pressure on Brazil at this Olympics will be immense.

The cracks in the football of the world’s greatest team were disastrously exposed with their astoundingly porous 7-1 semifinal thrashing by Germany in Belo Horizonte as the hosts of the 2014 World Cup.

Brazil are so desperate for their next generation to show promise at the Olympics that – given a choice by Barcelona to field Neymar either as an overage player at the Olympics or at the Copa America – they chose the former.

Dunga’s Selecao then exited the Copa last month in the USA in the first round‚ resulting in the coach’s sacking and ramping up the pressure a notch further for the Olympic hosts.

“I think it’s important to play as a team and not individuals. We are going to collectively defend as a team‚” Da Gama said of how his team intend to counter the threat of Neymar.

“We’ll get players behind the ball – as many as possible.

“Neymar is a very special player. But we cannot single him out and mark him only.”

Brazil’s Olympic coach‚ Rogerio Micale‚ has said he wants his team to embrace their natural flair as they attempt to put the country’s 2014 humiliation behind them.

Da Gama will look to his own “Neymars” – Mamelodi Sundowns star Keagan Dolly and Gremio’s Tyroane Sandows – to stun the Brazilians.

Sandows‚ 21‚ has played in Brazil for seven years for Gremio’s reserves and Sao Paulo’s youth teams.

“He’s helping us understand a bit more about the culture and the approach of Brazilian football‚” Da Gama said.

South Africa meet Denmark‚ also in Brasilia‚ on Sunday‚ August 7 and Iraq in Sao Paulo Wednesday‚ August 10.

Banyana Banyana – based in Rio de Janeiro for the start of the women’s tournament – have been able to soak up the pre-Olympic atmosphere more having moved into the Olympic Village on Sunday.

“It’s amazing‚ the vibe is incredible‚” said Banyana captain Janine van Wyk.

“We see beautiful colours with Rio 2016 logos everywhere. This is what makes what I have been waiting and working so hard for feel like a dream come true. I am embracing every moment.”

Banyana face Sweden in Rio on August 3‚ China on August 6‚ also in Rio‚ and Brazil in Manaus on August 9.