Brazil's Olympic squad: The players tasked with winning gold in Rio

Football tends to take a backseat during the Olympic Games, both because there are so many other sports vying for attention and because the major nations do not regard it as a priority. The U23 tournament has produced some memorable moments in the past but the reality is that in this era of soaring bank balances and packed schedules, the Games are viewed by many as an inconvenience.

The exception that proves the rule is Brazil, who are taking the competition very seriously. It's partly due to them being hosts; it is incumbent on them more than other sides to put on a show in front of their own supporters. But there is also a more historical motivation -- Olympic gold is the only international honour that has eluded Brazil thus far, meaning there is an urge for completism at play.

Brazil's priorities for the summer were established early in the year when it was decided Neymar would be left out of the squad for the Copa América Centenario so that he could appear at Rio 2016. He is, by some margin, the biggest star present at the tournament, but by no means will this be a one-man show; Brazil's squad boasts plenty of other talent, especially in attacking areas.

Here, then, are Brazil's Olympic football hopefuls.


Weverton: 38-year-old Palmeiras goalkeeper Fernando Prass was expected to start in goal but was ruled out of the tournament on Saturday night after suffering an elbow injury in training. His replacement, Weverton, is 10 years his junior but has a wealth of experience in the Brazilian top flight. Agile, imposing and an expert at saving penalties, the Atlético Paranaense captain has been talking up his hopes of playing for the national side since 2013.

Uilson: By no means a household name in Brazil, having only made a handful of appearances at the senior level, the Atlético Mineiro stopper was thrust into the starting XI for the 2-0 friendly win over Japan. Quick off his line and hugely comfortable with the ball at his feet, he will be hoping that Weverton's late arrival to the squad convinces coach Rogério Micale to hand him another start against South Africa.


Zeca: A technical, attack-minded full-back who usually plays on the left for Santos but is likely to play on the right this summer. That might reduce the frequency of his trademark diagonal runs inside to support the attackers, but he has the intelligence to make a mark wherever he plays. Atletico Madrid and other Champions League sides have been tipped as potential suitors.

Rodrigo Caio: Not the tallest centre-back around, he makes up for his lack of physical presence with a good football brain and dogged commitment. Youth coaches at São Paulo sat him down at the age of 16 to convince him to move into midfield, but he resisted and would likely already have moved to Europe were it not for a serious knee injury in 2014. His cool distribution will be a feature of Brazil's play.

Marquinhos: The Paris Saint-Germain defender's presence in the squad was in doubt for some time as the Ligue 1 champions were initially reluctant to lose a key player during preseason. But an agreement was eventually reached and Marquinhos will play in his favoured position at the heart of the defence. With plenty of experience to call upon, he should be one of the leaders of the squad.

Douglas Santos: Douglas recently spent a year at Udinese but only managed a handful of appearances before heading back to Brazil. That was a testing time for the man from the coastal town of João Pessoa, but he has bounced back in fine style since joining Atlético Mineiro, establishing himself as one of the country's most consistent full-backs and often featuring in Brazil's senior squad under Dunga.

William: A backup option at full-back, William caught the eye with a series of eye-catching displays for Internacional in the opening weeks of the 2016 Brasileirão season. Energetic and committed, he will provide thrust on the flank if called upon.

Luan: An unfussy centre-back who has been a regular for Vasco da Gama for the last three years, the 23-year-old will provide cover for Marquinhos and Rodrigo. He will be keen to put his last experience at an international tournament behind him; Luan was the captain as Brazil's U20 finished bottom of their group at the 2013 South American Championship.


Rafinha: Sport is a family affair for the talented Barcelona midfielder: his father, Mazinho, won the World Cup with Brazil in 1994; mother Valéria was a professional volleyball player; older brother Thiago plays for Bayern Munich (and opted to play for Spain at the international level). Rafinha has had to bide his time to make an impact at the club level but is much admired by those in the Brazil setup; he would have played at the Copa América earlier this summer but was forced to pull out with a knock.

Rodrigo Dourado: An elegant midfielder who has drawn comparisons with Brazil icon Paulo Roberto Falcão, aka his current manager at Internacional. Dourado likes to set the tempo from deep, picking the ball up from defenders and constructing attacks with probing passes. Injuries have disrupted his progress since Manchester United scouted him a year ago, but he has the ability to go far.

Renato Augusto: A late call-up to replace the injured Douglas Costa, Renato will be looking to maintain the momentum he has built up for the senior side. A regular for the Seleção under Dunga even after swapping Corinthians for Beijing Guoan, he will bring nous to the squad. He would cherish a spot in the final more than most, having grown up less than a kilometre from the Maracanã.

Thiago Maia: A hotly-tipped defensive midfielder who has blossomed at Santos over the last 18 months. A strong, busy player with a good passing range, Thiago turned down Boca Juniors at the age of 12 and briefly lived in a short-term motel as an academy player because it was cheaper than renting his own apartment. Little wonder he's now a devout evangelical Christian.

Walace: One of the revelations of the 2015 season in Brazil, Walace is a one-man protection unit, capable of muscling opponents off the ball and bulldozing through them when required, a concussive style that has earned him the nickname "Paizão" ("Big Daddy") at Grêmio. There have been comparisons with another Tricolor product, Gilberto Silva but a few recent long-distance strikes have suggested that he could develop into a more attacking prospect over time.

Felipe Anderson: The attacking midfielder was the doyenne of the rumour mill a year ago, but his star has dimmed a touch since a sensational 2014-15 campaign for Lazio. A fluent dribbler with an eye for goal, he could very easily be one of the stars of the tournament if he hits top gear, but he is by no means a guaranteed starter.


Neymar: Come on. You know who Neymar is.

Gabriel Jésus: Very much the flavour of the month when it comes to feverish transfer rumours, the Palmeiras starlet is hoping to put on a show for his country after taking the league by storm in recent months. Since making his first-team debut just over a year ago, the forward has morphed from erratic hopeful to superstar-in-waiting, maturing at staggering speed to become one of the most feared attackers in Brazil.

Able to play out wide but increasingly comfortable leading the line, Gabriel Jésus marries raw pace with nifty footwork and a knack for finding space in the final third. Manchester City are in pole position to secure his signature, but Palmeiras are hopeful of keeping hold of him until the end of the year.

Gabriel Barbosa: Discovered when he was just eight, Gabriel has long been tipped for the top. He earned the nickname "Gabigol" for his mind-bending strike rate in the Santos youth set-up (over 600 goals in eight years) and has lived up to the hype since breaking into the first team in the last couple of seasons, winning plenty of admirers with his prescient movement and unerring finishing. The 19-year-old has already netted twice for Brazil's senior side and found the net in the warm-up game against Japan.

Luan: Four years older than the two Gabriels, Luan took a more circuitous route to the top, only switching from futsal to the 11-a-side game at the age of 18 and waiting until 2014 to start a senior match. A bit-part player at Grêmio under Luiz Felipe Scolari, Luan really came to the fore when up-and-coming coach Roger Machado took the reins, his quicksilver dribbles, clever runs and unselfishness becoming features of the side's play. Leicester have sent representatives to Porto Alegre to discuss a potential transfer.

The coach: Rogério Micale

A goalkeeper during his modest playing career, the 47-year-old has 15 years of experience in youth football to his name and is hoping to cement his reputation as one of the country's best shapers of talent.

A fan of Pep Guardiola, he earned the nickname "Kamicale" at one coaching course due to his preference for daring football that allows individuals to express themselves. But away from the field, Micale is thoughtful, low-key and pragmatic: he sends around his plans for the next day's training sessions via WhatsApp the night before. That approach seems to suit the players, many of whom played under the truculent, unapproachable Dunga at senior level.