Neymar scored twice, including the fastest goal in Olympics history, as Brazil coasted into Saturday's gold medal football match with a 6-0 thrashing of Honduras at Rio's iconic Maracana.
Neymar scored twice, including the fastest goal in Olympics history, as Brazil coasted into Saturday’s gold medal football match with a 6-0 thrashing of Honduras at Rio’s iconic Maracana.
The hosts now have the chance to ease some of the pain caused by a 7-1 humiliation at the hands of Germany on home soil at the 2014 World Cup by delivering Brazil’s first Olympic football gold medal.
A mouth-watering rematch with the Germans is in store should the world champions see off 1996 Games winners Nigeria in Wednesday’s other semi-final, later in Sao Paulo.
Neymar had been much criticised for his lacklustre displays in two 0-0 draws to start the tournament, but his transformation back from the nation’s whipping boy to golden boy was capped by his determination to open the scoring after just 15 seconds.
“Neymar is a monster. He has the gift of playing football, he delights everyone with his talent,” said Brazil coach Rogerio Micale.
“Neymar deserves our gratitude because he pushes Brazil to a higher level.”
The Barcelona star hounded defender Johnny Palacios to rob possession on the edge of the Honduras box and goalkeeper Luis Lopez’s attempt to atone for his teammate’s error only ricocheted the ball off Neymar’s midriff and into an empty goal.
For a moment, Neymar’s bravery looked like it may have come at a cost as he had to be stretchered off after being winded in the challenge.
However, there was no repeat of his tears of anguish when carried off with two broken vertebrae in his back that ended his World Cup participation in a brutal quarter-final against Colombia two years ago.
The 24-year-old was soon back terrorising the Honduras defence as he teed up Luan for an effort Lopez managed to repel, before Bryan Acosta and Allans Vargas were booked for taking their uncompromising attempts to stop Neymar too far. However, Honduras coach Jorge Luis Pinto believes Neymar’s star billing offered him too much protection.
“Neymar is the best or second best payer in world football, so controlling him is not easy,” said Pinto, whose side still have the chance to land Honduras’ first ever medal in Friday’s bronze medal match.
“But the referees are falling into his trap.”