LONDON -- Brazil hasn't been this close to the gold medal in men's soccer since Romario was a promising young star in the late 1980s.
Many great players have tried and failed after him, including Rivaldo, Roberto Carlos, Ronaldo and Ronaldinho.Now it will be up to Neymar, the future of Brazilian soccer, to end decades of frustration and give the nation its first Olympic gold, the only trophy missing for the five-time World Cup champions.
Brazil is the favorite in Saturday's final at Wembley Stadium against Mexico, a team which will also be looking for its first Olympic gold.
"It's our third chance to win this gold and hopefully we will learn the lessons from the other finals we played and didn't win," Brazil coach Mano Menezes said.
Anything but the gold will be considered a failure for Brazil, which established the London Games as the team's priority this year and brought most of its top players for the competition.
The Olympics are also an important test for the players, most of them who will also likely be in the team trying to help Brazil win next year's Confederations Cup and the 2014 World Cup at home.
Victory would give them an extra boost of morale and show fans the national team is on the right track, while defeat could raise doubts and even cost Menezes his job.
"We all know that we need to win the gold," Menezes said. "Brazil has to win every tournament it plays, it needs to win every match it plays, even if it's a friendly. And this time even more because it's something the nation has never won before."
Brazil is playing in the Olympic final for the first time since the 1988 Games, when the team led by Romario and Bebeto lost 2-1 to the then Soviet Union. Brazil also lost the final four years earlier in Los Angeles.
Bebeto, Ronaldo, Rivaldo and Roberto Carlos got the bronze at the 1996 Atlanta Games, and Ronaldinho also finished third with Brazil four years ago in Beijing, when the team lost to Argentina in the semifinals. Ronaldinho also was in the team eliminated by Cameroon in the quarterfinals of the 2000 Sydney Games. Brazil didn't qualify for Athens in 2004.
Coaches who tried and never got the gold include Mario Zagallo in 1996, Vanderlei Luxemburgo in 2000 and Dunga in 2008.
The man carrying the team's expectations this time is 20-year-old Neymar, Brazil's most talked-about player in years, touted by some to potentially become the world's best player.
"We came here for the gold and we are one match away from getting it," said Neymar, who has been playing up to expectations so far with three goals and several assists in the team's five victories. "We just have to do our job in the final."
But Brazil will be facing an opponent which has been creating problems in recent years. Mexico has won six of the last 12 matches against the Brazilians since 1999, including that year's Confederations Cup final. It lost only four of those games and drew two.
The Mexicans won the last time the teams played, a warmup for the Olympics just a few months ago in the United States. Mexico won 2-0 in a match in which both teams played with many of the players who made it to the London Games.
"We are certainly using that match in our preparation for the final here," Menezes said. "They are playing here very similarly to how they played in that match."
But Mexico's task to win its first gold got a bit harder when forward Giovani Dos Santos was ruled out of the final because of a right hamstring injury. The son of a former Brazilian player, Dos Santos will be replaced by Marco Fabian.
"It's sad," Mexico playmaker Miguel Ponce said, "but even if he can't be there, we are going to play the match for him and the country."___
Hours after the closing ceremony actually ended in London, NBC played back some recordings of athlete interviews done on the floor of the Olympic Stadium in the immediate aftermath of the performance by The Who.
Up first, 17-year-old swim star Missy Franklin summed up the feelings of everyone who has been contributing to this live blog for the past 17 days.
"I can't believe it's over," Franklin told Michelle Tafoya of NBC.
Thanks for enjoying (and/or not enjoying) everything that has happened during the London Olympics with us.
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NBC has returned from your local news and its new sitcom with.. The Who. It's midnight on the East Coast and well past the bedtime of all the band members in the UK.
|@ Blueskyfox : Sorry @NBC, not playing your switch-and-bait game trying to get me to watch your monkey show. #SwitchingChannels|
|@ Dowminator : Really! I want to see The Who more than I want to watch NBC's newest comedy...|
|@ GlennaRegan : Seriously, NBC? Animal Practice preview? You can't interrupt the Closing Ceremony with a promo for your dumb new show...|
|@ davewordnerd : How desperate is NBC? Gotta interrupt tape-delayed Olympic closing ceremony to show a stupid sitcom?|
|@ ashleyesq : Leave it to NBC to split the #closingceremonies...for those that care, apparently the end end will be on at 11:00|
|@ davidlasseter : Oh, so you have to sit through Animal Practice to get to The Who. NBC using the whole fist on us.|
With everyone knowing that The WHO already played in London hours ago but still waiting to see them during the Closing Ceremony broadcast, NBC decides to debut a new sitcom. So, you have to wait for this to see "Baba O'Riley" and "See Me, Feel Me" and "My Generation."
With Take That performing, the fireworks began.
The many petalled Olympic cauldron begins to come apart and after a puff of smoke, a red, lit Phoenix hovered above the flames.
Our opening ceremony proclaimed that these would be a Games for everyone. We can say that these were a Games by everyone
The spirit of these Games will inspire a generation. When our time came, Britain, we did it right
Lord Coe, the athlete turned politician delivers his second speech of, saying it was "A wonderful games in a wonderful city. We lit the flame and we lit up the world."
|@ NathanWurtzel : Chance of Pele lighting the Olympic torch in 2016? 100%?|
|@ dazgale : Alright, Rio. This is impressive and all. But do YOU have Fatboy Slim DJing inside a giant octopus? I don't think so. London - 1 Rio - 0|
|@ sportspickle : It's like this every day in Brazil.|
The Brazilian performance begins with a tap dancer dressed a street sweeper begin scolded by security type. But soon CARNIVAL has them both.
The stadium was lit up green and yellow as the Brazilian anthem plays. The hosts of the 2016 Olympics then had the chance to give the world of glimpse of what they'll have on offer in four years. Expect Samba.
NBC cameras show athletes talking amongst themselves as Olympic flag is lowered, folded and prepped for transfer to Brazil.
The national anthem of Greece is played to honor the birthplace of the Olympics as the Greek flag is raise, to flutter in the wind near (but not too near) the Olympic cauldron.
Jessie J struts out to meet May in the middle of the stadium, where she begins singing "We Will Rock You." The crowd ate it up.