Brasilia :Brazil’s search for a first Olympic football gold medal got off to a goalless start as they were held to a frustrating draw against 10-man South Africa here.
Brazil fielded their strongest possible line-up featuring Gabriel Barbosa, recent Manchester City signee Gabriel Jesus and spearheaded by their talismanic captain Neymar, here on Thursday.
However, despite dominating possession and having 21 shots on goal, Brazil were unable to convert their opportunities. Gabriel Jesus had the best chance of the game in the 69th minute when he was able to convert from close range in front of an open net, his strike hitting the post.
Although they endured sustained periods of pressure from the Brazilians, especially after going a man down in the 59th minute, South Africa put in a spirited performance and threatened to score on a number of occasions.
Their goalkeeper Itumeleng Khune also deserves a special mention after pulling of a string of fine saves to keep the hosts at bay.
Brazil, the most successful football nation on earth, have never won a gold at the Olympics. The hosts believe that Rio 2016 will finally see them break that duck, but they go into their next game against Iraq, on 7 August, knowing that a win is vital if they are to progress from the group stage.
In the earlier games on Thursday, Honduras held on to beat Algeria, despite a late goal, in an exciting game that finished 3-2, while Iraq and Denmark also finished 0-0.
Mexico and Germany drew 2-2 and Portugal defeated Argentina 2-0.
On Wednesday, Brazil’s women got their campaign off to a flying start with a convincing 3-0 win against China, at the Olympic Stadium in Rio de Janeiro.