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Brazil-Germany a World Cup rematch? Not to the players or coaches

Brazil-Germany a World Cup rematch? Not to the players or coaches
A Brazilian fan sits alone in the stands after Germany crushed Brazil, 7-1, in the World Cup semifinals in 2014. (Frank Augstein / Associated Press)

In the climactic scene of the iconic boxing moving "Rocky," a bloodied and battered Apollo Creed pulls Rocky Balboa close and says "there ain't gonna be no rematch."

But they do meet again.

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It's tough to pass up a rematch. Win once? Maybe you got lucky. Do it again and no one can question who's better. That's why Muhammad Ali fought Joe Frazier three times. It's why the Yankees play the Red Sox 19 times each season.

It's also why Saturday's Olympic soccer final between host Brazil and World Cup champion Germany has become, for Brazilians, the biggest event of the Rio Games.

Two years ago Germany humiliated Brazil, 7-1, on its home soil in the most lopsided World Cup semifinal in history. It was a national embarrassment that will not soon be forgotten.

Saturday's rematch, which is expected to draw a sold-out crowd of nearly 80,000 to the iconic Maracana, offers a chance at both revenge and redemption though it can't completely atone for the World Cup debacle because it won't be a true international match.

FIFA, the world governing body for soccer, is so worried the Olympic tournament might one day overshadow its World Cup, it has watered down the men's half of the Summer Games competition by making it an age-group competition limited to players no older than 23.

Each team is allowed three exceptions, so Brazil's roster includes 24-year-old striker Neymar, the only Brazilian Olympian who also played in the World Cup, though he sat out the Germany game because of an injury. Defender Matthias Ginter is the only German who was also on the World Cup roster, although he never played.

"That was the World Cup. This is the Olympic team," Brazil Coach Rogerio Micale said. "Neymar never played in that match so there is nothing that could generate any type of feeling that we have to take revenge.

"It is a different time with different players and ages."

Try telling that to the Brazilian fans, who are so starved for good news they're willing to overlook the differences.

Twice in the last two years Brazil has invited the world over for a party, only to wind up standing in the corner watching everyone else dance. In the World Cup, the Brazilian team was so crushed under the unrelenting pressure of its soccer-mad populace that three players were in tears during its round-of-16 shootout with Chile.

The collapse against Germany was understandable if not inevitable.

This summer, Brazil's Olympic team had won 15 medals — only five of them gold — entering the final weekend. The United States won 16 golds in swimming alone.

Much of the international media coverage from the Games has focused on the crime, traffic and other problems ranging from green pool water to raw sewage in Guanabara Bay, site of the sailing and marathon swim events.

So a victory Saturday, the penultimate day of competition, would provide a huge measure of pride for a country that has won a record five World Cups but never an Olympic title.

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Brazil is guaranteed no less than a silver, its sixth Olympic medal in soccer, most of any country. But second place won't do this time.

"This is what we wanted," Brazilian forward Gabriel Jesus said. "We are fighting to conquer this."

Germany is also playing for its first Olympic title as a unified team, though East Germany won the tournament in 1976.

"What could be a greater experience for a young player than to be here at the Maracana for the final of an Olympic Games, playing in front of nearly 80,000 people?" said Germany Coach Horst Hrubesch, who has also dismissed comparisons to 2014.

"What counts is this game, the Olympic final," he said. "It is a different team."

Saturday's final will be a study in contrasts. Brazil hasn't allowed a goal, while Germany has scored a tournament-high 21 times. Two players — Serge Gnabry and Nils Petersen — have combined for 12 goals, equaling what Brazil's entire roster has scored.

Brazil's roster features players signed to contracts in four of Europe's top five leagues. Gnabry, a midfielder with England's Arsenal, is the only German to play outside the domestic Bundesliga.

Micale continues to insist this ain't gonna be no rematch.

"I am sure the final with Germany will be a great match, but it has nothing to do with the past," Micale said. "Emotionally we will be strong as we have gone through so much already. During the tournament there have been questions and doubts.

"Now we just have to [play] our final match."

Twitter: @kbaxter11

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