BRASILIA, Brazil (AP) After a disappointing start at the Olympics, Brazil is preparing to play without the support of the home crowd.
The Brazilian soccer team was loudly booed in the 0-0 draw against South Africa in the opener, and another disappointing performance against Iraq on Sunday (9 p.m. ET — Watch live on NBCSN and NBCOlympics.com) will certainly lead to more jeers from the demanding fans in Brasilia.
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Brazil coach Rogerio Micale said the players will have to find a way to deal with the hostile environment if the team struggles again.
“If there are boos again, we will have to pretend that we are playing away from home, play as if we were playing in a stadium with rival fans,” Micale said Saturday. “We can’t be affected by that if it happens.”
Brazil is favored to win the Olympic tournament thanks to a talented team led by Barcelona striker Neymar, and fans will not be satisfied with anything other than the gold medal – the only significant trophy Brazil has never won in soccer.
Micale said the best way to keep the fans from turning against the team is to get off to a strong start against Iraq at the Mane Garrincha Stadium, which again is expected to pack in more than 60,000 fans.
“It would be ideal to score early,” Micale said. “But the players can’t forget that we have 90 minutes to earn the victory, which is the most important thing for us right now. We have to stay calm. The opponent knows that we are under pressure and they can use that against us.”
Iraq coach Abdulghani Alghazali said his team can take advantage of Brazil’s difficult moment.
“This pressure certainly is a weapon that can be used,” he said through a translator.
Brazil defensive midfielder Thiago Maia said it’s natural for the crowd to be unsatisfied with Brazil’s struggles.
“The fans come to the stadium to see goals and victories,” he said. “We understand them, football is like that. Hopefully in this next game the ball will go in and we can get the victory.”
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Brazil created numerous scoring opportunities against South Africa but was not able to capitalize on them, even after the Africans went down a man because of a red card in the 59th minute.
“The first game is always complicated because of the nerves and the anxiety,” Micale said. “But that moment has passed. I think the team will be a bit looser on the field tomorrow and will give a positive response to the fans.”
Iraq and Denmark also drew 0-0 in their first game, leaving all teams tied going into Sunday’s matches. South Africa will play Denmark in the first game of the doubleheader.