To many football associations across the world, the men's Olympic tournament is little more than a mild inconvenience. Something that would be nice to win, but is more of a novel testing ground for young players than a tournament that is worthy of truly sweating over. In the world's most successful football nation, though, that is demonstrably not the case.

Despite winning the World Cup a record five times and being responsible for making the game a beautiful one, Brazil has never won Olympic gold. Having claimed every other major honor, it is a prize Brazil is desperate to land. Many – including the players, judging by their performance – believed gold was finally theirs in 2012, only to be upset 2-1 in the final by Mexico.

Now four years on, and on home soil, everything is seemingly in place for this to be Brazil's time. While to much of those watching the Olympics from around the world, the football will be a sideshow, in Brazil itself, where there is little history of success in traditional Olympic sports, it will be the main event.


And the main man of Brazilian soccer will be there to carry the weight of a country's hopes. Again demonstrating the importance of the Olympics, Barcelona star Neymar wasn't taken to the Copa America Centenario this summer, when Brazil exited at the group stage to end the reign of coach Dunga, in order that he could lead his country's quest for gold.

And Neymar will be at the hub of what is on paper a thrilling attack. Alongside him is likely to be two Gabriels, both of whom look set to become household names after the Olympics. Gabriel Jesus, 19, has scored 10 goals in 14 matches for Palmeiras this season – form that has already earned him a transfer to Premier League giants Manchester City for around $40 million. And Gabriel Barbosa could soon be following him to a big European club if he delivers on his undoubted potential at the 2016 Olympics. Nicknamed “Gabigol” after his prolific scoring rate coming up through the youth ranks at Santos, the 19-year-old scored less than 15 minutes into his senior debut for Brazil at the Copa America Centenario.

There is more than just attacking quality for coach Rogerio Micale, who has stepped in from his full-time role as Under-20 coach. Paris Saint-Germain's Marquinhos will line up at center-back and in midfield there is Barcelona's Rafinha Alcantara, brother of Spain international Thiago, as well as Lazio's exciting Felipe Anderson and the experienced Renato Augusto.

But there have been injury blows, too. Augusto is only in as a replacement for Bayern Munich winger Douglas Costa, while on Saturday veteran goalkeeper Fernando Prass was ruled out. Atletico Paranaenese captain Weverton was called in as late cover and will now compete for a starting spot with 22-year-old Uilson.

Brazil will be expected to comfortably come through a group that also contains Iraq, Denmark and its opening opponent on Thursday in Brasilia, South Africa. Certainly, the whole of Brazil will be desperate to avoid a repeat of the teams' meeting on South Africa's only previous appearance at the Olympics, when it beat Brazil in 2000, only to still fall at the group stage.

Little is expected of South Africa this time around, especially after rising star Phakamani Mahlambi suffered a knee injury that rules him out of the Olympic Games. All of South Africa's 18-man squad plays its football domestically, with the exception of Lille strike Leob Mathiba and Tyroane Sandows, who plays in Brazil for Sao Paulo.

Prediction: Fired on by the home crowd and blessed with some exiting young talent, Brazil should have far too much for a South Africa side lacking experience at a high level.

Predicted Score: Brazil 3-0 South Africa

Brazil Squad

Uilson (Atletico Mineiro), Weverton )Atletico Paranaense)

Defenders: Douglas Santos (Atletico Mineiro), Luan Garcia (Vasco Da Gama), Marquinhos (Paris Saint-Germain), Rodrigo Caio (Sao Paulo), William (Internacional), Zeca (Santos)

Midfielders: Rafinha (Barcelona), Renato Augusto (Beijing Guoan), Rodrigo Dourado (Internacional), Thiago Maia (Santos), Walace (Gremio)

Forwards: Felipe Anderson (Lazio), Gabriel Barbosa (Santos), Gabriel Jesus (Palmeiras), Luan (Gremio), Neymar (Barcelona)

South Africa Squad

Jody February (Ajax Cape Town), Itumeleng Khune (Kaizer Chiefs)

Defenders: Rivaldo Coetzee (Ajax Cape Town), Repo Malepe (Moroka Swallows), Mulomowandau Mathoho (Kaizer Chiefs), Kwandakwensizwa Mngonyama (Maritzburg United), Abbubaker Mobara (Ajax Cape Town), Aubrey Modiba (Mpumalanga Black Aces), Tebogo Moerane (Bidvest Wits)

Midfielders: Menzi Masuku (Orlando Pirates), Deolin Mekoa (Maritzburg United), Gift Motupa (Orlando Pirates), Phumlani Ntshangase (Bidvest Wits), Tyroane Sandows (Sao Paulo)

Forwards: Keagan Dolly (Mamelodi Sundowns), Tashreeq Morris (Ajax Cape Town), Lebo Mothiba (Lille), Mothobi Mvala (Highlands Park)

Kickoff Time: 3 p.m. EDT

TV Channel: NBCSN

Live Stream:, NBC Sports Live Extra