Rio de Janeiro - Barcelona star Neymar failed to provide the
flying start Brazil wanted in their quest for a maiden football gold medal as
the hosts were held 0-0 by 10-man South Africa in their Olympic opener
Neymar is by far the biggest name taking part in the
football competition and has been tasked with restoring pride to Brazilian
football after a catastrophic 7-1 defeat to Germany on home soil at the 2014
However, he endured a frustrating afternoon on a sandy and
slow surface in Brasilia as South Africa held out despite Mothobi Mvala's red
card half an hour from time.
Group A is now in a four-way tie on one point after Iraq and
Denmark also played out a scoreless draw earlier.
In contrast to the swaths of empty stands across the six
cities being used to host the men's and women's football tournaments on the
opening two days, the hosts commanded a near-capacity 70,000 crowd.
However, the Brazilian side boasting Neymar, Manchester
City's new 27 million ($35.4 million) signing Gabriel Jesus and Marquinhos of
Paris Saint-Germain did not provide the expected victory procession.
South Africa's Lebo Mothiba had a host of chances to cause
an almighty upset, but failed to make a ragged Brazilian defence pay for early
Neymar proudly sported the captain's armband, but his desire
to get involved by dropping deep often left him too far from the South African
goal to make a telling impact.
Also read: Brazil happy to rely on Neymar for Olympic gold
The Barcelona star had Brazil's best two efforts of the
first-half with strikes from outside the box that forced South African 'keeper
Itumeleng Khune into two stunning saves.
South Africa dominated the early stages of the second-half
with Mothiba and captain Keagen Dolly coming close. But their chances appeared
to have gone when defender Mvala was sent-off for two quickfire yellow cards.
Brazil ramped up the pressure. Jesus somehow turned the ball
onto the post with the goal gaping, whilst a dipping drive from Neymar landed
on the roof of the net.
However, South Africa resisted to add problems on the field
for the hosts to a Games build-up already marred by fears surrounding the Zika
virus and Brazil's political turmoil.
Portugal's stunning summer after winning Euro 2016 could get
even more golden as they saw off Argentina 2-0 to the delight of the Brazilian
crowd in Rio.
Both sides are looking to the future with Lionel Messi
having announced his international retirement with Argentina after three final
losses and Portuguese hero Cristiano Ronaldo now 31.
Gonzalo Paciencia's low drive put Portugal ahead before a
horrible error from Argentina goalkeeper Geronimo Rulli allowed Pite's
long-range effort to sneak between his legs to secure the three points six
minutes from time.
Honduras beat Algeria 3-2 in the other Group D game.
World champions Germany played out a thrilling 2-2 draw with
2012 gold medallists Mexico under a torrential downpour in Salvador.
Three goals in 10 minutes in the second-half put Mexico 2-1
ahead as Oribe Peralta and Rodolfo Pizarro struck either side of Arsenal's
Serge Gnabry's reply for Germany.
However, the only World Cup winner on show at the Olympics
Matthias Ginter, who flew 20,000km from Borussia Dortmund's pre-season tour in
China to Brazil, earned Germany a point.
Fiji and South Korea were in action in Group C later.
Nigeria arrived in the Amazonian city of Manaus just hours
before their match against Japan as the initial plane intended to take them
from their training base in Atlanta on Wednesday was deemed "too
small" for the squad and staff.
Sweden and Colombia are in action in Manaus in Group B.
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