With the fastest goal in Olympic history, Neymar led Brazil back to the gold-medal match.
The Barcelona striker scored 15 seconds into the game and converted a penalty kick in second-half injury time Wednesday to lead Brazil over Honduras 6-0 in the semifinals of the men’s tournament. Gabriel Jesus added two goals in the first half at the packed Maracana Stadium and Marquinhos and Luan scored a goal each in the second.
Brazil has never won the Olympic title, and lost in the final at the 2012 London Games. The host country will play either Germany or Nigeria in Saturday’s final.
Brazilian fans are hoping for a sort of rematch against Germany, whose senior team embarrassed Brazil 7-1 in the semifinals of the World Cup two years ago. “Hey Germany, just wait, your turn is coming up,” the fans chanted at the Maracana.
Only the gold will be enough, with Brazil playing at home and being considered the main title-favorite in a tournament played mostly with under-23 squads and very few stars. The Olympic gold medal is the only major trophy the five-time World Cup champions haven’t won in soccer.
With Neymar playing well, Brazil was in command from the start in front of the more than 70,000 fans at the Maracana. It didn’t take long for the Barcelona player to put Brazil ahead.
Honduras defender Johnny Palacios had the ball under control at the top of the penalty area but gave it away as Neymar closed in quickly, and the striker took advantage to get on the board. His shot was initially blocked by the goalkeeper but the ball bounced off Neymar’s leg and went into the net.
Mexico forward Oribe Peralta previously held the record for fastest goal at the Olympics after scoring 29 seconds into the final in London four years ago, when the Mexicans upset Brazil 2-1 to win the gold. Honduras striker Alberth Elis had tied that mark in a game against Portugal in the group stage at the Rio de Janeiro Games. Janine Beckie took only 20 seconds to score for Canada against Australia in the women’s tournament in Rio.
After Neymar’s early goal, Brazil was in control and Gabriel Jesus, one of Brazil’s most promising youngsters, added to Brazil’s lead in the 26th after a pass by Luan, hitting the net as the goalkeeper charged from the goal.
Neymar set up Gabriel Jesus’ second goal with a perfect through ball behind a defender. The 19-year-old forward entered the area and hit the top of the net for his third goal at the Olympic tournament.
Defender Marquinhos scored the fourth goal off a corner in the 51st, shooting from close range after the defense failed to clear the cross into the area, and Luan added another in the 79th after a perfect cross by Felipe Anderson.
Brazil got off to a slow start at the Olympic tournament, being held to scoreless draws against South Africa and Iraq and becoming in danger of another early elimination two years after the humiliating loss to Germany at the World Cup.
But Neymar and the rest of the squad picked up the pace just in time, beating Denmark 4-0 in the final group match and eliminating Colombia 2-0 in the quarterfinals.
One more win will give them the coveted Olympic gold.