Home advantage, a multi-million dollar strike force and a man advantage for almost half the match could not help Brazil to a winning start as South Africa held the home side to a 0-0 draw in their opening match at the Rio Olympics.
Brazil, who have never won the Olympic gold, started with a highly rated front three of Neymar, new Manchester City signing Gabriel Jesus, and Gabriel Barbosa, the 19-year old Santos striker who is expected to head to Europe before the transfer window shuts.
But the little-known South Africans matched them until they had Mothobi Mvala sent off 10 minutes into the second half.
The Barcelona forward captained his country but failed to get them off to a winning start in Brasilia
South Africa goalkeeper Itumeleng Khune helped keep Brazil at bay with an impressive performance
BIG MATCH STATS
BRAZIL (4-3-3): Weverton; Zeca, Marquinhos, Caio, Douglas Santos (William 84); Felipe Anderson (Luan 60), Renato Augusto (Rafinha 67), Thiago Maia; Neymar, Gabriel Jesus, Gabriel
BOOKED: Thiago Maia 73, Marquinhos 90+3
SOUTH AFRICA (4-2-3-1): Khune; Mobara, Mathoho, Coetzee, Mekoa; Motupa, Mvala; Modiba (Ntshangase 70), Masuku (Morris 58), Dolly; Mothiba
BOOKED: Mvala 56, Mathoho 90
SENT OFF: Mvala 59
REFEREE: Antonio Mateu Lahoz
Brazil pinned the visitors down for the rest of the game but could not score.
‘That’s football,’ Barbosa told television cameras after the game. ‘Sometimes the ball doesn’t go in the net.’
Barcelona striker Neymar had two of Brazil’s best chances, forcing keeper Itumeleng Khune to make diving saves to thwart two rasping drives from outside the box.
Jesus smacked the ball off the post from two yards out when it looked easier to score in the second half and Barbosa should have done better when he scuffed a shot with only the keeper to beat.
But a big crowd in the National stadium in Brasilia went home unhappy after the second game of the day ended goalless.
Jeers greeted the Brazil players as they left the field at the full time whistle.
Brazil have put their failure to score against 10 men down to a bad day at the office.
The hosts have vowed to work hard to improve before their next game against Iraq.
Brazil’s fans find their voice during the first half as they cheer on their side on home soil for this summer’s Games
‘Today we failed in the goalscoring category so we need to get better,’ said defender Marquinhos. ‘We tried, we had the character to keep plugging away, but unfortunately we just couldn’t score.’
Jesus’ miss in the second half – when it looked easier to score – was the best chance of the game with the player making no excuses for his glaring mistake.
‘I am disappointed I could not score, it was a mistake and that shouldn’t happen,’ he said.
‘Now we need to focus on Sunday and not make mistakes.’
All eyes were on Neymar at the national stadium but even the Barcelona man couldn’t work miracles on his own
Manchester City signing Gabriel Jesus, who has joined the Premier League side for £27million, sums up Brazil’s frustration
The new Manchester City striker argued the huge expectation of a partisan home crowd didn’t impact on their failure to score.
GROUP A OLYMPIC RESULTS SO FAR
Iraq 0-0 Denmark
Brazil 0-0 South Africa
‘We were not anxious, I think the opposite was the case,’ he added when asked if opening day nerves played a part in Brazil’s failure to grab all three points. ‘We were overconfident. That happens. It is football.’
Some fans in the 69,000 crowd booed the team as they left the field but Brazil coach Rogerio Micale said the reaction would serve to steel his young charges.
Jesus, one of the hottest prospects in Brazil, will stay with Palmeiras until the end of December before joining City
‘The support of the fans is very important to the team,’ Micale said. ‘We know it is difficult in any competition, but if we have the support of the fans it will make things easier and help our players.
‘But we need to be prepared for adverse circumstances. And it means we will be more focused in the future.’
Earlier on Thursday, Iraq and Denmark kicked the tournament off with a 0-0 draw in the same stadium.
The first goals in the competition came soon after in Rio, where Honduras beat Algeria 3-2 in an enthralling match.
The opening ceremony for the Rio Games takes place on Friday but the men’s soccer tournament began 24 hours earlier, a day after the women’s soccer teams began their quest for gold.
Twelve women’s teams are in Brazil, along with 16 men’s sides.
The Olympic football competition is being played in host city Rio de Janeiro and six other cities.