Brazil national coach Mano Menezes announced a preliminary list of 51 players for the 2012 Olympic games in London on Wednesday. Mano included Ronaldinho (Flamengo), Thiago Silva (AC Milan), David Luiz (Chelsea), Julio Cesar (Inter Milan), Dani Alves (Barcelona), Hernanes (Lazio), Marcelo (Real Madrid), Alexandre Pato (AC Milan) and Hulk (FC Porto) as possible candidates for the prized berths for three, over 23-year-old players. True to Mano's recent squad selections for the national team, Kaka and Robinho were omitted. Of the under-23-year-old players, standouts include Neymar (Santos), Paulo Henrique Ganso (Santos), Leandro Damiao (Internacional), Lucas Moura (Sao Paulo), Oscar (Internacional), Henrique (Granada, Spain) and Casemiro (Sao Paulo). Expectations for Olympic gold are mounting in Brazil given the abundance of talent in this generation of under-23-year-old players. Brazil has never won Olympic gold in soccer even though they are five time World Cup champions.
Mano Menezes has remarked that the Olympic squad needs an experienced central defender such as Thiago Silva in order to win the gold medal. Star midfielder Ronaldinho meanwhile has been outspoken about his desire to play again in the Olympics, even though he has been suffering from a recent poor run of form at Flamengo. Brazil's midfield sparkled at the FIFA U-20 World Cup in Colombia in August 2011 under the leadership of Oscar (Internacional) and Casemiro (Sao Paulo). Casemiro recently commented that Brazil's current Olympic squad "is the best group ever assembled, the strongest." "If you stop to think about it," he noted, "you can make a strong group without having the three over-age athletes."
Brazil won the 2011 FIFA U-20 World Cup by scoring 18 goals en route to the trophy. Coach Ney Franco's World Cup winning U-20 squad featured a midfield composed of Casemiro, Coutinho, Fernando and Oscar behind strikers Henrique and Willian Jose.
While Oscar stole the show in the final with a memorable hat trick in Brazil's 3-2 victory against Portugal, Henrique picked up the Golden Ball and Golden Boot awards for the tournament's most valuable player and leading goalscorer, respectively. Pressure is particularly high on Menezes to win Olympic gold as a stepping stone to Brazil's preparation for the 2014 World Cup on home soil. Brazil will announce a revised list of 35 players on June 8. The final 18 player squad for the Olympic games, which take place between July 27 and August 12, will be revealed on July 6.