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There’s One Olympic Victory Brazilians Want Most

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It seems you hear it all the time in Brazil since the extraordinary events of July 8, 2014. Every time a child trips on the sidewalk, a workman smacks his thumb with a hammer, a driver gets cut off by a careless motorist or the nation lurches into yet another financial trough the same ironic words can be heard.

“And … Germany scores again!”

Brazil’s 7-1 defeat to Germany in the semifinal of a World Cup it felt destined to win was the kind of embarrassment that does not heal quickly. Yet perhaps only here, in this country where to say soccer is a religion would be to downplay its importance, could the fallout be so great.

That night in Belo Horizonte has become the symbol of Brazil’s recent struggles and the modern notion in this superstitious country that the place is, for now at least, somewhat cursed. A financial and political meltdown has affected millions, while the organization of the Olympic Games has been plagued by controversy.

“We need to get back credibility,” Brazilian soccer legend Kaka, who now plays for Orlando SC in Major League Soccer, told USA TODAY Sports recently. It was not immediately clear if he was talking about credibility in soccer or as a country, such is the extent to which the fortunes of the nation and it’s chosen sons seem intertwined.

No one knows yet whether this is an opportunity or a fresh pitfall, but the Olympic Games men’s soccer tournament offers the potential for an outcome that could go some way toward soothing those still-raw World Cup wounds.

“It is going to help a little bit (if we win), for sure,”

Kaka added.

“It is the only title we haven’t won.”

Olympic men’s soccer is played by athletes age 23 or under, with each squad permitted three “overage” players.

Therefore, it is not a true test of a country’s soccer prowess but is nevertheless a significant title. Brazil has won the World Cup five times, more than any country, but Olympic glory has proven elusive. If it comes this time, on home soil, it might just break the spell of the Germany defeat.

“People were so astonished by what happened against Germany that they couldn’t even cry,”

Jan Willem Zeldenrust, a Dutch soccer journalist who moved to Brazil to run a tour business, said.

“It is so horrible for them that they don’t want to talk about it any more, unless it is with irony. Right now a gold medal is super important, to maybe help forget this defeat.”

Brazil opens its campaign against South Africa in the capital Brasilia on Thursday. Olympic soccer tournaments routinely stage games at venues outside the host city. With Iraq and Denmark making up the other teams in Group A, the hosts should cruise through to the quarterfinals.

However, the same was said about the full national team at the recent Copa America in the United States, before it crashed out in the group stage, with head coach Dunga paying the price with his job.

“We need to get the country behind us,”

new coach Rogerio Micale said.

“They will be looking to us for success.”

Of all the gold medals that Brazil could potentially win this summer, this is the one it wants the most. Until then, there will always be one eye cast backwards – to the World Cup.

“It was bad and everybody was sad,” said Golden State Warriors center Anderson Varejao, who will play for the Brazil national basketball team in Rio. 

“That’s what happens when you don’t play well and the other team plays really well. Germany had a great game.”

One of the after-effects of the 2014 loss was a greater appreciation for all things German. Brazil’s registry office reported an increase in baby names similar to those of members of the Germany team, with Bastian (Schweinsteiger), Toni (Kroos) and Manuel (Neuer) especially popular.

While fans of some nations would respond with anger, Brazil’s supporters, both in the stadium and on the streets, simply marveled at Germany’s proficiency.

“It was a tragic day but what was the most amazing thing was as soon as the third or fourth goal went in everyone just got behind Germany and starting cheering their goals,”

TJ Connally, a Rio-based British property investor, said.

“That just showed what amazing people Brazilians are.”

It was only in the days and months that followed that the embarrassment really kicked in. From that, the desire to win at Rio grew. The players, led by Barcelona superstar Neymar — who missed the World Cup semifinal because of injury — knows what is expected of them.

“We know how important this medal is,”

Neymar said.

“We will do everything we can to try

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