Brazil have never won Olympic gold, a failing that pains a proud football nation and has prompted the team's coach, Mano Menezes, to label this tournament "The London Project", but a glorious chance to break new ground awaits at Wembley on Saturday having swept aside South Korea in the semi-final.
Menezes' side, inspired by the mesmerising Neymar, the polished Oscar and the potent Leandro Damião, cruised into Saturday's final against Mexico – 3-1 victors over Japan – with a performance that doubled as an emphatic riposte to accusations in the Brazilian media of not taking the Olympics seriously enough. Angered, they cancelled an open training session for on the eve of the semi-final. They also punished South Korea by taking their goal tally to 15 in five matches and demonstrated they possess the pedigree to improve on the silver medals from Los Angeles in 1984 and Seoul in 1988.
"It is 24 years since Brazil were last in the Olympic final and that shows it is not easy to get there," Menezes said. "We have always had quality players but we have also faced a lot of quality and it shows the merits of this team that it has reached the final. But it is only the final. There is one more step to go."
Brazil arrived in the semi-final with a 100% record and their forward line gelling perfectly, justification for taking umbrage to criticism back home, but South Korea were not initially overawed by their opponents or the occasion. They took the game to the favourites, a decision justified by a vulnerable Brazilian defence and the movement of the Korean front pair of Ji Dong-won and Kim Hyun-sung, and should have led before Neymar, Oscar and Leandro found their imperious rhythm.
Kim Hyun-sung had a back-post header hacked clear by Sandro after a fine turn in the area by Nam Tae-hee and was put through by a lovely chip from Ji. A brave header beyond the Brazil goalkeeper, Gabriel, lacked the pace to cross the line and prompted an equally courageous effort by the Sunderland striker only for Thiago Silva to intervene. Ji began impressively and was close to finding the top corner with an audacious drive from 35 yards. Once Brazil had withstood the early pressure, however, they took complete control and South Korea wilted before the quality of the opposition attack. "We blew the early chances and we tired," said their coach Hong Myung Bo, his side having played 120 minutes against Team GB on Saturday.
Oscar, Chelsea's new £25m recruit, has shown a fine understanding with Neymar throughout the tournament and the pair were involved in the majority of the chances that fell to Brazil from midway through the first half onwards. Leandro twice went close before Neymar found Oscar and, after an unchallenged run across the Korean area, he rolled a perfectly weighted pass into Romulo, who beat Lee Bum-young inside his near post too easily. In fairness to the keeper, he had injured a knee moments earlier when colliding with Leandro to block a poor back-pass.
Ji shot inches over from another ambitious attempt on the stroke of half-time but there was no concerted response from South Korea and the tie was effectively ended when Leandro doubled Brazil's lead early in the second half. Neymar was the architect, playing an incisive one-two with Marcelo into the area, and though Brazil's left-back missed the cut-back it fell invitingly for the unmarked striker to tuck away.
Leandro's second, Brazil's third, was a clinical touch of improvisation into the bottom corner after Oscar and Neymar, of course, had weaved their way through the Korean defence once more. They ultimately progressed to Wembley with a stroll.