FOOTBALL: Neymar thwarted as 10-man South Africa hold Brazil
Brazil were held to a frustrating 0-0 draw by 10-man South Africa in their opening Olympic Games match in Brasilia on Thursday.
Head coach Rogerio Micale fielded captain Neymar, rising star Gabriel Barbosa and new Manchester City signing Gabriel Jesus in a fearsome three-pronged attack, but they were unable to find a breakthrough inside a packed Mane Garrincha Stadium.
Lebo Mothiba twice missed chances for South Africa in the first half before the hosts began to take control, with Neymar twice coming close from distance and Gabriel Jesus hitting the post with the goal gaping.
South Africa were dealt a blow when Mothobi Mvala picked up a second booking in quick succession, but despite their territorial dominance, Brazil could not muster the goal they needed to take control in Group A.
Mothiba dragged a presentable opening wide from inside the area in an even first half, though Neymar stung the hands of Itumeleng Khune as Brazil began to step up their attacking efforts.
Neymar whipped a curling shot onto the roof of the net from 20 yards and Gabriel Barbosa forced Khune into action from distance, but the packed crowd in Brasilia were growing increasingly restless as Brazil began to struggle for inspiration in attack.
Mvala’s dismissal gave the hosts some renewed impetus, but Gabriel Jesus missed a sitter midway through the second half, turning the ball onto the base of the post with Khune having been caught out by Luan’s bouncing cross.
Barbosa was twice denied at close range by Khune, and Neymar almost squeezed a shot home in stoppage time after a dancing run from the left, but Brazil were forced to settle for a point.
The result leaves Group A finely poised heading into Sunday’s second round of matches, with Iraq and Denmark having played out a goalless draw earlier in Brasilia.