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The Selecao returned to form on Wednesday to reclaim their favourites tag and set up a clash against Colombia in the quarter-finals of the Rio 2016 men's football tournament


What a difference a goal makes. After two underwhelming goalless draws against South Africa and Iraq, Brazil found themselves under immense pressure and facing a disillusioned local public.

But once Gabigol rolled in his nation's first goal at the Olympic Games in the first-half of their 4-0 win over Denmark on Wednesday, everything changed.

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A swagger returned to the five-time world champions, one that has been noticeable in its absence from the senior side over the past two years.

The Golden Trio of Neymar, Gabriel Jesus and Gabigol are off the mark and the pressure has been lifted. Despite their early struggles, Brazil have still managed to reach the second phase as group winners, top scorers, and with three clean sheets as well.

Neymar and Gabriel Jesus suffered the most criticism for the early performances, with the latter singled out after missing a boatload of chances against South Africa and Iraq.

The sense of relief was clear as he converted Luan’s cross at the back post, with the teenager overcome by emotion in the subsequent celebrations.

Neymar, meanwhile, found greater space and support in a more cohesive display in which the introduction of Luan as a fourth attacker knitted the side together.

Gabigol, too, had fluffed lines, but after a slightly fortunate opener he found fresh confidence and took his second superbly. With greater support through the middle, the Santos starlet wandered from his position on the right much less frequently and time and again provided the Selecao with a target at the back post for onrushing left-back Douglas Santos.
Renato Augusto was another who had faced Brazil’s boo-boys in Brasilia, but turned in his best performance of the games so far, linking much better with Neymar as Luan played a vital support role.

Douglas Santos turned in the strongest performance of his international career to date, consistently charging forward into the space on the left wing vacated by a drifting Neymar to twice set up goals for team-mates – first for Gabigol and later for Luan. Zeca, too, offered greater width on the right with an increased appetite for joining in the attack.

Indeed, it was a night of redemption for the whole team, both collectively and individually, with Lazio’s Felipe Anderson the only one who feel a personal disappointment after seemingly losing his place in the first team.
Gremio’s Walace also impressed after stepping in as the defensive midfielder in the absence of suspended Thiago Maia – leaving the ‘volante’ role ostensibly the one position up for grabs ahead of the quarter-finals.

Walace impressed with his smart sense of positioning and ability to break down opposition counter-attacks, though his limitations on the ball were exposed and so if Micale decides his team must dominate possession against Colombia, then Thiago Maia will likely return.

The defence has looked sound all tournament, with Marquinhos and Rodrigo Caio forming a comfortable partnership in central defence, though they are yet to be truly tested. 
Atletico-PR's Weverton is the only player left with a point to prove. Still looking nervy following a very late introduction to the squad, his distribution and ability to command his area must improve.

Manager Micale was in the firing line but came out swinging, implementing the 4-2-4 formation he had been working so heavily on. The plan came together just when his side needed it most.
Next up for Brazil is a battle against South American rivals Colombia at the Corinthians Arena on Saturday night. And after a nervy start, the five-time world champions have reclaimed their favourites tag.