By Miles Chambers
Most UK football fans only started to get excited when the Selecao’s mouth-watering squad was announced, shortly after Team GB’s uninspiring team selection caused more eye-rolls than interest.
A look down the player names is like reading a list of the most high-profile transfer targets in the world right now: Lucas Moura, Neymar, Ganso, Leandro Damiao, Oscar, Hulk.
Goal.com looks at who the danger men are, why the Olympics is craved so much in the South American nation, who their coach is and unearths intriguing facts about this summer’s Samba Boys.
Forever the bridesmaid, never the bride - the Olympics is a major tournament that has so far eluded the five-time World Cup winners and seven-time Copa America champions.
Romario (pictured above) was part of the Brazil side that reached the final in Seoul 1988 and scored in the 2-1 extra-time defeat to the Soviet Union.
This last-gasp loss came four years after being beaten 2-0 in the gold medal match by France and those consecutive silver medals are the only final appearances in 11 qualifications for the historic sporting event.
Sixteen years ago they picked up a bronze medal by thrashing Portugal 5-0 after being stunned by Nigeria in the Atlanta Olympics semi-finals 4-3 in extra-time.
Four years ago they repeated that achievement after perennial South American rivals Argentina knocked them out 3-0 in the semis, before the Brazilians put three goals past Belgium to help the nation finish 23rd in the overall medal table.
This summer they will be desperate to put past woes behind them to give them a welcome boost with the 2014 World Cup, being hosted in Brazil, less than two years away.
|PLAYERS TO WATCH
One of many Brazilians linked with a move to Chelsea (and Tottenham) this summer, the Porto star is likely to be at the heart of many successful attacks at London 2012.
Picked as one of the three over-23 players in the Olympic side, Hulk has 13 caps and three goals for the senior side but all of these have come in the last three years. He has performed notably in recent friendlies and, now he is a key figure in the Selecao step-up, he will be eager to prove he can shoulder the responsibility.
Described in some quarters as the most exciting player of this generation, the Santos striker is a potential leading figure for the Brazil national side in the future.
At London 2012, eyes will be fixed upon the 20-year-old to see if the tricky attacker is as talented as many say he is. How he performs on the major stage could affect future moves to vaunted clubs such as Real Madrid and Barcelona.
The Internacional midfielder will be one of the most keenly watched by British eyes seeing as the 20-year-old has been heavily linked with a Chelsea move.
The starlet has shown tidy performances in recent Selecao matches which has allowed him to leapfrog Ganso in the Mano Menezes’ preferred starting line-up. Whether he keeps his place for the duration of the tournament could depend on his creative impact in the group games.
One of only two Premier League stars in the Brazil squad, Sandro ensures the hard graft is achieved alongside the Samba-style and attractive attacking that many of his compatriots prefer.
Linked with Real Madrid (where Tottenham team-mate Luka Modric looks destined to go this summer) not so long ago, the Spurs central midfielder still has plenty to learn but is fast becoming lauded for his solid showings in north London. The Olympics should allow critics to see how far he has come in his time at White Hart Lane.
Having just secured a move to cash-rich Ligue 1 club (and a second-home for Serie A stars) PSG, the team captain is undoubtedly Brazil's best central defender.
The oldest player will have the duty of leading the younger defenders like Juan Jesus and Bruno Uvini to glory against teams that will be fighting for their survival in the competition. A commanding presence in the centre of the back-line always helps teams progress into the final stages of a tournament.
The man to lead the Brazil Under-23s throughout London 2012 will be the senior squad’s head coach - Mano Menezes.
The manager was expected to bring in a more experienced player to team up with Thiago Silva in defence, so David Luiz's absence has taken pundits in Brazil by surprise.
However, the coach has been coherent in keeping Hulk in his first-team plans - the Porto attacker had top form during friendlies earlier in the summer.
Brazil legend Romario said to reporters at the start of July when the squad was picked: “It's rubbish. Nothing against the over-23s who were selected, but this should have gone to players who are more experienced.
“I'm not the coach, but I disagree with this selection. I would take three defenders over the age of 23.”
Despite Brazil dropping out of the Fifa top 10 for the first time since it was created in the early 1990s, Menezes has largely done a good job with the Selecao.
Two losses in June were a set-back to the coach but Hulk, Oscar, Thiago Silva, Marcelo, Alexandre Pato and Neymar - all in the Olympic squad - have scored in the last three senior games.
|DID YOU KNOW?
- The national side has only missed the men’s football event at the Olympic Games three times in the last 52 years.
- According to Goal.com Brazil’s Matheus Harb: “The gold medal is one of the international trophies that Brazil has never won, despite holding five World Cup and several Copa America titles at its tab. So the top of the podium is met as an obligation in every edition of the Games.”
- Brazil hosts the next World Cup in 2014 and the next Olympics in 2016. Plenty of major tournament football on home turf coming up for these players, then.
- Mano Menezes's men’s opponents in the group stage are Belarus (who they face second at Manchester United’s ground, Old Trafford), Egypt (their first game of London 2012 in the Millenium Stadium in Wales) and New Zealand (at Newcastle United’s St James’ Park to conclude their group games).
- If the Selecao top Group C and Spain finish second in Group D, the footballing giants will face each other in the quarter-final stage at St James’ Park on Saturday August 4.
- Senior players who are missing out on the Olympic finals include Barcelona’s Dani Alves, Chelsea duo Ramires and David Luiz, Inter right-back Maicon, former Ballon d’Or winner and Real Madrid midfielder Kaka and Ronaldinho, who has been capped 94 times for his country.
- Can Brazil win genuinely go for gold? Matheus Harb believes so. The Brazil expert said: “If they manage to defend way better against good opponents, and run away from the predictable style of play they have been showing, then the gold medal may become a reality.”