LONDON, England (AP) — Brazilians looked dejected with the silver medals around their necks after the men's Olympic football final. They recognised it as a huge defeat.
Not only did Brazil miss winning their first gold in football, but their 2-1 loss to Mexico on Saturday also raised doubts about the future of the national team just two years ahead of the World Cup they will host.
The players acknowledged the defeat was a blow to their morale, but remained confident they'll get over it quickly.
Coach Mano Menezes said the team's preparations will stay on track, although his job is not secure after Brazil's failure despite being the heavy favourite to win the competition.
"One loss should not play too big of a role in our future," Menezes said. "Just like one victory shouldn't either. If we had won the final it wouldn't have solved all of our problems. These players matured during this competition and that's not going to be wasted because of the loss. They will take that with them and it's going to help them when they play in the World Cup."
Menezes may not be the one leading them by then, as the Brazilian football federation still hasn't said that it will keep him. The federation hinted before the competition that a disappointing result at the Olympics could cost Menezes' job, but a decision is not expected until the team returns to Brazil later this week.
The Olympic tournament was seen as a big test for Brazil's young team. Most of their top players made the tournament's Under-23 age limit and had the chance to show fans back home that they can be capable of leading the senior team at the World Cup in two years.
Captain Thiago Silva, one of the three players older than 23, said a victory would have helped improve the team's confidence, but the defeat shouldn't be seen as a sign that everything is wrong with the team that came to London.
"It's not the end of the world," he said. "We learned many lessons just by being here and we showed our potential by reaching the final."
Neymar was one of the players who felt they missed their only chance to try to win an Olympic gold medal, which made the loss that much more difficult, but he also wasn't lamenting the setback too much.
"We have to keep our heads high and move on," said Neymar, touted to be carrying Brazil's hopes in the future. "The World Cup is still a long time away, a lot of things can still happen until then, there's time. We wanted to win the gold, that's why we came here, but it didn't happen and we just have to move on."
Brazil was one of the most dominant nations in football in the 1990s and early 2000s, winning three World Cup titles and two Confederation Cups. It also reached another World Cup final and won four Copa Americas from 1997-2007.
But the five-time world champions haven't had much success since their elimination in the quarter-finals of the 2006 World Cup in Germany. It also fell in the quarters in 2010 in South Africa and last year in the Copa America in Argentina.