Jul 29, 2012, 10:00 PM EDT
As expected, Neymar is making the Men’s Olympic soccer tournament his own, though as Spain’s shocking exit reminds us, Olympic soccer shouldn’t be taken for granted. This may be a turbo charged under-23 tournament, but there’s plenty of talent involved.
That’s what makes what Neymar’s doing so special. The 20-year-old Brazilian attacker, already acclaimed as one of the world’s best (without having set foot in Europe), as two goals in two games, a description which vastly understates his influence. He’s been the key cog in a Brazil attack that’s scored six goals in two games.
You could argue that a world class player dominating the Olympics isn’t so newsworthy, but when somebody like Luis Suarez goes scoreless in two games, it’s difficult to argue goals are there for the taking. A look back at the recent history of stars in the Olympics shows there are just as many Suarezes as Neymars. While some legends have used the summer games to build their legacy, others have failed to make their mark.
Here’s a quick look at the recent history:
2008 – Lionel Messi was just beginning his ascent to world domination when he touched down in China. He scored Argentina’s first goal of the tournament in a win over Cote d’Ivoire but only managed one more in the Albiceleste’s final five games (a gift presented him by a Dutch giveaway). Finishing a perfect 6-0-0 record, Argentina claimed gold, their only hiccup a penalty kick shootout win over the Netherlands in the quarterfinals.
2004 – Cristiano Ronaldo was only 19 when he represented Portugal at the Athens games. The Seleccao disappointed, finishing at the bottom of Group D, though the young Ronaldo got on the scoresheet in the 40th minute of a Portugal win over Morocco. Coming off his first year at Manchester United, Ronaldo still impressed, putting on a memorable display of skill in his team’s opener against Iraq. The Iraqis went on to win the game, 4-2.
2000 – The Sydney games were star-studded, in hindsight. Ronaldinho was on Brazil’s squad, scoring in the 94th minute to earn the Selecao extra time in the quarterfinals (they’d lose to Cameroon on a golden goal). A 20-year-old Xavi Hernández helped Spain to silver, scoring twice (including in the final) as La Roja averaged two goals per game. But Samuel Eto’o, then 19, would end up claiming gold, scoring his only goal of the tournament in the final, eventually converting a penalty kick in the shootout.
1996 – Real Madrid legend Raúl scored twice for Spain, but a 20-year-old Ronaldo, fresh off his second season at PSV, was the man to watch. In six games, Ronaldo scored five times as Brazil took home bronze. Only Hernán Crespo and teammate Bebeto had more goals in the tournament.
1988 – Two strikers that would go on to win world titles featured in South Korea. Jurgen Klinsmann scored four times for one of West Germany’s final teams, the squad claiming the bronze in a 3-0 third-place match win over Italy. Brazil’s Romario, however, would be the tournament’s leading scorer, posting seven goals. Unfortunately, it was one too few, as Brazil lost the gold medal match to the Soviet Union, 2-1.
1984 – Roger Milla got Cameroon’s Olympics off to a strong start, scoring 32 minutes in to the Indomitable Lions’ first match (against powerhouse Yugoslavia). Cameroon would eventually lose that match and fail to get out of group, with Canada beating them 3-1 in Boston in Group B’s third game. Milla finished with that one goal.
1976 – Michel Platini and Hugo Sanchez were drawn into the same group, with only Platini’s France making it out. He scored three times in group play before Les Bleus ran into East Germany in the quarterfinals, losing 4-0. Sanchez had a late consolation goal in his meeting with Platini’s France, but he would be kept off the scoresheet against Israel and Guatemala.
1972 – Falcão started two of Brazil’s three games (and appeared in all of them), but it was a poor tournament for the Selecao. Only 19 years old and yet to start his professional career with Internacional, Falcão wasn’t in much of a position to help. They finished bottom of a group that included Hungary, Denmark, and Iraq. The tournament’s star was Poland’s Kazimierz Deyna, who scored nine goals in seven games, leading his team to gold. Deyna would eventually become a star in the NASL with San Diego, ending his career with the team as it moved into the Major Indoor Soccer League.
May 22, 2013, 8:19 AM EDT
Pulis joins long list of EPL managers departing… is English soccer becoming more ruthless?
May 21, 2013, 8:02 PM EDT
Wait a minute … didn’t MLS commissioner Don Garber say there “is no Plan B …” beyond the Queens location?
May 21, 2013, 6:40 PM EDT
Well, phooey! Didn’t Dempsey just go through a summer of transfer instability?
May 21, 2013, 4:50 PM EDT
This and that as the U.S. contingent preps to gather in Cleveland ahead of five matches over the next few weeks:
May 21, 2013, 4:10 PM EDT
The updated ordering in ProSoccerTalk’s ranking of Major League Soccer teams following 12 rounds of play:
Officials from MLS, Yankees, Manchester City and NYC mayor Michael Bloomberg to speak tomorrow on expansion news
May 21, 2013, 3:15 PM EDT
How very convenient that Manchester City just happens to be in the States for a brief two-game tour.
May 21, 2013, 2:30 PM EDT
It’s really about two things, and not much else:
May 21, 2013, 2:05 PM EDT
By forming NYC FC, City and the Yankees have created a ‘sister-club’ relationship – an innovative bond between a Premiership and MLS club.
May 21, 2013, 1:23 PM EDT
Early thoughts on the facility and the ripples of today’s big announcement on the 20th MLS franchise:
May 21, 2013, 11:45 AM EDT
By swapping Dzeko for Cavani, City can hamstring Manchester United and Chelsea, as both are rumored to be seeking a world-class striker.
It’s official: Manchester City and the Yankees will own and operate Major League Soccer’s newest expansion team.
May 21, 2013, 11:16 AM EDT
The league’s 20th franchise will begin play in 2015:
May 21, 2013, 9:33 AM EDT
During his Premiership tenure Toure has proven himself a leader, captaining both the Gunners and the Citizens, as well as Cote d’Ivoire.
May 21, 2013, 8:37 AM EDT
Has Daniel Levy already forgotten about what happened when he tried to pin Luka Modric down with this ‘no sale’ line of bull?
May 20, 2013, 11:58 PM EDT
Expect this one to get worked out.
May 20, 2013, 11:23 PM EDT
If Real Madrid’s going to shake things up, Higuaín could do worse than land at The Emirates.
May 20, 2013, 9:45 PM EDT
Four players were on the original list. None of them may end up at Stamford Bridge.
May 20, 2013, 8:13 PM EDT
Our sympathy continues to grow for a man in a bad spot.
May 20, 2013, 7:21 PM EDT
MLS will not have arrived until it has a high-profile feces incident.
May 20, 2013, 6:40 PM EDT
It probably won’t happen this summer, and if it does … I’m sure we’ll run that into the ground, too.
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