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Brazil pin hopes on women, not male footballers

sports Updated: Jul 16, 2008 23:28 IST

The Brazilian women, not the men, have the best shot to win a gold medal in football at the Olympics.

Led by FIFA player of the year Marta, the women's team is headed to China looking to come home with their first gold in the sport. The men will have to work hard to have a shot at the much-coveted title since they will send an under-23 team that is missing Kaka and other stars.

The Brazilian women are coming off runner-up finishes in the 2004 Olympics and the 2007 World Cup, in addition to winning the gold medal in last year's Pan American Games in Rio de Janeiro. The men, meanwhile, will be playing with a youth squad that has had very little success in the past. In addition to failing to qualify for the Athens Olympics four years ago, Brazil's youngsters haven't won a significant title since 2003.

In last year's under-20 World Cup, they lost in the round of 16, and in the 2005 edition, they finished third. Six players who participated in those two tournaments will be back in Brazil's Olympic team in Beijing.

To make things worse for the men's team, coach Dunga has struggled to fill the three spots allowed for over-23 players because European clubs don't want to release them. Kaka, the FIFA player of the year, wanted to play in Beijing, but AC Milan didn't allow him because the Olympics conflict with the beginning of the European season.

Real Madrid's Robinho is certain to play, but Ronaldinho has just switched clubs from Barcelona to Milan and may not want to test the goodwill of his new employer. And even if available, he hasn't played in nearly four months.

The third over-23 player called up by Dunga was defender Thiago Silva of Brazil's Fluminense. Women's coach Jorge Barcellos has been spared from similar problems.