Brazil and Honduras play in the first men’s soccer semifinal on Wednesday, Aug. 17 at 12:00 p.m. ET.
Brazil came into the 2016 Olympics as gold medal favorites, but struggled out of the gates as the team played to two scoreless draws in its first two matches. Those performances left many questioning if this Brazil team has what it takes to win the country’s first Olympic soccer gold medal.
However, Brazil has scored six goals in its last two matches and has still not allowed a goal at the 2016 Olympics. It appears the team is rounding into form at the perfect time.
Honduras is a team that surprised many when it qualified for the Rio Games by defeating the U.S. in CONCACAF Olympic qualifying. Then, after being drawn into Group D with the likes of Portugal and Argentina it seemed unlikely that the team would make it out of group play.
But, with a win over Algeria and a draw against Argentina, Honduras qualified for the quarterfinals where it faced Group C winner South Korea. Honduras was able to squeak out a 1-0 victory to continue its surprising run through the tournament.
Now set to face Brazil in the semifinals, this will be the tallest mountain to climb for these underdogs.
Brazil is led by FC Barcelona star Neymar. Recognized as one of the best soccer players in the world, he has been expected to guide this team to the gold. Although he has played well for his country, Neymar only has one of his team’s six goals at the Olympics.
Neymar has received help from others, including youngsters Gabriel Jesus and Gabriel Barbosa, who have scored one and two goals respectively. Brazil’s attacking trio has wreaked havoc on opposing defenses in the team’s last two matches and could do the same against Honduras, which recorded its first clean sheet in the quarterfinals.
Honduras has received contributions from many players to get to the semifinals. The team has six goals at the 2016 Olympics, scored by four different players. Leading the way are forwards Antony Lozano and Alberth Ellis who form a counter attacking duo that has allowed Honduras to punish opponents on the break.
That counter attacking ability could be vital in this matchup as Brazil is likely to control the majority of possession.
With the men’s soccer tournament finally coming to the host city, in the famous Maracanã Stadium, a raucous crowd is expected to be in attendance to cheer on the Brazilians.
While the atmosphere will undoubtedly boost Brazil, it could also add pressure to a team shouldering the hopes of one of the most soccer-crazed countries in the world.