The pressure is off Brazil's men's soccer team. For now. After opening with a pair of scoreless ties against South Africa and Iraq that were greeted with derision from media and fans, the host
Brazilians moved into the quarterfinals of the Olympic men's soccer competition with a 4-0 win over Denmark.
didn't score, but young stars Gabigol
each scored twice for a victory that could have been a lot larger. The Danes also advanced when Iraq and South Africa tied, 1-1.
Brazil has won the World Cup five
times but has never captured the Olympic gold medal and is playing two years after its embarrassing fourth-place finish at the World Cup it hosted.
Like two years ago, Brazil attracted
huge crowds for its first two games in Brasilia, but they quickly turned on Neymar
and company when they didn't score. During the second game, chants of "Mar-ta! Mar-ta!" went up in reference
to women's star Marta
. The Brazil women won their first two games, 3-0 and 5-1.
Comparisons between the men and women and Neymar and Marta were inevitable. One fan tweeted that if
Marta played against Iraq, she would have scored at least three goals. Another showed off his Neymar jersey with Neymar's name crossed out and Marta's name written in. Juca Kfouri
best-known sports columnist, told the Wall Street Journal
that Marta was a more complete player
“Do not compare her with Neymar," he said. "If you’re going to compare, compare her with Pele
Marta did not want to get drawn into the
"This comparison we leave to the fans," she said after the Brazil women qualified for the quarterfinals. "We all cheer for the men's team and we know that they cheer for us.
Neymar is the best player we have right now. He is fantastic."
Pele did not chime in, but Zico
, another Brazilian great, did, telling Globoesporte that Neymar must start acting
like the captain he is.
"The captain of our team is not up to being captain," Zico said. "He must worry just about soccer. But, just the opposite, they just started complaining that Iraq
were wasting time. They needed to play soccer."
Neymar, who is only 24 but playing as one of Brazil's three overage players in an otherwise under-23 tournament, had come in for great
criticism for his partying, especially during the Copa Centenario at which Brazil exited in the first round. (Barcelona refused to let Neymar play in both the Copa Centenario in June and Olympics,
forcing the Brazilian federation to choose which tournament to use him in.) Rogerio Micale
, Brazil's Olympic coach, said the criticism of Neymar and comparisons to Marta were
“Marta is how old? 31?" Micale said. "We can say that she is a sensational player, and she rightfully has all our recognition, but Neymar is a future world-beater. Marta and
Neymar are two great Brazilian soccer players. But Neymar is 24 and still hasn't' fully matured. A player generally peaks at 28, both physically and mentally. Neymar has had to live with the pressure
of being a leader since he was 17-years-old."