By Andrew Downie
RIO DE JANEIRO (Reuters) – Brazil are hopeful that their Olympic soccer triumph will give the faltering senior national side a boost as they head into two key World Cup qualifiers next month.
Although the Olympic tournament features under-23 teams, Brazil believe their win can signal a new beginning for the country’s soccer which has been bedeviled by chaotic administration at home and poor results at senior level.
Brazil are sixth in the South American World Cup qualifying group – outside the qualifying places for Russia 2018 — and were dumped out of the Copa America by Peru in June.
“This is a contribution to the national team but the situations are different,” said Olympic team coach Rogerio Micale after his side beat Germany on penalties following a 1-1 draw in Saturday’s final.
“It is a seed, the players are young so that is an excellent sign for the future.”
The future starts on Monday, when senior national team coach Tite, appointed in July after Dunga was fired, names his first squad for qualifiers in Ecuador on Sept. 1 and at home to Colombia five days later.
But, amid the euphoria over the gold medal, Tite is already facing a dilemma.
One of the first things that Neymar did after netting the winning penalty on Saturday was to renounce the captaincy of the senior team.
Tite will have to find a new leader, no easy task in a squad he is rebuilding after a disastrous end to their home World Cup in 2014 and poor showings in the Copa America tournaments of 2015 and 2016.
Neymar apart, few of Brazil’s top players are stand out performers at their club sides.
The pool of talent right now can be divided into three groups: aging veterans such as Dani Alves and Filipe Luis; players who have yet to fulfill their potential such as Lucas Moura and Philippe Coutinho; and promising youngsters such as Gabriel Jesus and Lucas Lima.
The young players have added experience after coping with the pressure of delivering the gold medal in front of sometimes adoring and often abusive home crowds.
The big question now is whether they are ready to make the step up.
“We can look to the future with more confidence and more pride,” said an optimistic Micale. “Brazilian football is not dead, we can achieve great things in the future.”
(Editing by Brian Homewood)