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Brazil has focus on Olympic football tournament

Brazilian Football Confederation (CBF) President Jose Maria Marin gestures during a press conference in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Monday April  9, 2012.
Brazilian Football Confederation (CBF) President Jose Maria Marin gestures during a press conference in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Monday April 9, 2012.
Felipe Dana, Associated Press

SAO PAULO — Brazil's football team is making the London Olympics its top priority for 2012.

The Brazilian football federation president Jose Maria Marin said Wednesday that he won't spare any effort to make sure the national team can contend for the elusive gold medal in London in less than four months.

The Olympic tournament is the only significant competition the five-time world champion has yet to win.

"Of course the final goal is to win the 2014 World Cup, but we can't forget that in 2012 we have to go after an unprecedented gold medal," Marin said. "It's a title Brazil still doesn't have and I'll make sure I'll provide all the working conditions the team needs."

Brazil won the Olympic silver in 1984 and 1988, and the bronze in 1996 and 2008, when a team led by two-time FIFA player of the year Ronaldinho lost the semifinals to Lionel Messi's Argentina.

Brazil has historically not given much attention to the Olympic tournament, but Marin said this time he will closely monitor all details involving the team in England and will personally watch the team's preparations. The Brazilian federation says Marin will visit Brazil's headquarters in London in the near future.

Carlos Nuzman, the president of the Brazilian Olympic Committee, met with Marin earlier this week and said the focus will be on both the men's and women's team, as the women have also never won gold despite having five-time FIFA player of the year Marta.

"We will be available to cooperate any way we can during the London Games," Nuzman said.

Brazil men's coach Mano Menezes has been under pressure because of his team's disappointing performances recently, but Marin said he is fully behind the coach.

"The work so far is going according to the expectations," Marin said Wednesday while speaking to a congressional commission discussing the World Cup. "We are forming a team and we will see during the Olympics if we are on the right track."

Brazil is expected to take a strong team to London, with young stars such as Santos' Neymar, Espanyol's Philippe Coutinho and A.C. Milan's Alexandre Pato.

The Olympic tournament is played with under-23 squads but each team can use three players over that age.

Menezes released a 52-player preliminary squad in March and included Ronaldinho as one of the players over 23. Others were Inter Milan goalkeeper Julio Cesar, Milan defender Thiago Silva, Barcelona right back Daniel Alves, Chelsea defender David Luiz and Porto striker Hulk. Milan's Robinho and Real Madrid's Kaka were left out.

The players under 23 included Santos' Paulo Henrique Ganso, Sao Paulo's Lucas and Internacional's Leandro Damiao.

A list with 35 players will be released on June 8, and the final 18-player squad to be announced on July 6.

Brazil will face Denmark in a friendly in Germany next month, but it's unlikely Menezes will select a squad solely with Olympic-age players. He is expected to test his Olympic team when Brazil tours the United States to play the U.S. on May 30, Mexico on June 3 and Argentina on June 9.

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