rio olympics

Hosts humbled: Brazil held goalless in pulsating opener against South Africa

PUBLISHED : Friday, 05 August, 2016, 6:22am
UPDATED : Friday, 05 August, 2016, 6:22am

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 on Thursday.

Brazil, who have never won an 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 closes.

But the little-known South Africans matched them until they had Mothobi Mvala sent off 10 minutes into the second half.

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. 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.

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 football tournament began 24 hours earlier, a day after the women’s football 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.