Written by Staff Writer.
SANTA MONICA, Calif. With his club side, Barcelona having only cleared him to play in one major tournament this summer, Brazil have chosen to rest Neymar for the Copa America Centenario and deploy him in the Rio Olympics instead.
While a triumph playing at the Copa Centenario in the U.S. would be nothing to sneeze at, for Brazil the Olympics are a much higher priority for a number of reasons.
For starters, Olympic gold remains the one major honor missing from Brazil’s overflowing trophy cabinet – which among other things includes, five World Cups, eight Copa Americas, and four Confederations Cups. Taking Olympic gold at home might also go some way toward easing the bitterness that lingers over the country’s sporting psyche from the traumatic elimination by eventual winners Germany from the World Cup two years ago.
Then as now, Neymar was the key attacking piece in a Brazil side that still has a long way to go to convince it’s anything like the storied teams that have dominated world football for decades.
Although, playing at home Brazil are favorites and top seed in a group that also includes Denmark, Iraq and South Africa. However, lurking out among the competition, are reigning Olympic champions Mexico and reigning World Champions Germany in a Group C rounded out by Fiji and South Korea.
Neymar’s Barcelona teammate Lionel Messi won’t be part of the Argentina team that will compete against Algeria, Honduras and Portugal in Group D. Messi will instead by deployed at the Copa America.
Messi’s rival, Cristiano Ronaldo will also sit the tournament out and will instead represent Portugal at the Euros.
Ronaldo’s Real Madrid teammate, James Rodriguez on the other hand, is likely to feature for Colombia, which joins Japan, Nigeria and Sweden in Group B.
One of the few top stars that will be competing in two major international tournaments this summer is Zlatan Ibrahimovic. The Paris Saint-Germain striker is expected to line up for Sweden at both, the Euros in France in June, and the Olympics.