SHANGHAI, China (AFP) — Brazil overcame their deep frustration at not making the men's Olympic football final by putting away Belgium 3-0 to take the bronze medal consolation prize at Shanghai Stadium here Friday.
Goals by Diego and Jo in the first half and a second from Jo on full-time settled the outcome.
It was the second time they had met in these Olympics, after Brazil narrowly won their opening pool match 1-0, but this time the samba boys were not as laid back.
Although clearly demoralised by their 3-0 semi-final loss to Argentina, they had inspirational captain Ronaldinho to re-ignite their motivation with a masterful display in the midfield.
And the AC Milan star announced he was firmly back on the world stage.
"One month ago I was deciding about my life without playing for four months. Then the reality was totally different. From now, it's the return of Ronaldinho football," he said.
"We came here for gold, but we didn't deserve to beat Argentina.
"Now the bronze medal may not be important from a Brazilian's point of view but in the future we will be proud of it."
Werder Bremen midfielder Diego also pleaded for Brazilian fans to proud of the medal, even if it is bronze.
"We deserve respect as a group of players because we took some criticism after the defeat to Argentina," he said.
"Everyone came to China for a medal and we got one. It's not what we were expecting at the beginning but it's one of the most important awards."
Ronaldinho created numerous opportunities through the first half starting with a header that just sailed over the bar in the opening minutes.
A free kick by Ronaldinho then found Alex Silva unmarked to the right of the goal but his header went wide.
Belgium were able to absorb the pressure for the first quarter of the game, assisted by a lack of precision when it counted by Brazil, before Diego found the net to open the scoring.
A build up down the right flank by Manchester City's Jo had Belgium scrambling at the back.
In a quick one-two, Jo fed Rafinha whose cross to the goal mouth was picked by Diego with a first touch strike that Bailly had no chance of getting to.
A desperate Belgium fought to level the score and chances in quick succession by Maarten Martens and Thomas Vermaelen went dangerously close before Brazil came back to close out the half with a late goal by Jo.
Belgium refused to lie down but man-on-man pressure, while restricting the Brazilians, did not bear fruit for the Europeans with their best opportunity, a long-range shot by Kevin Mirallas easily covered by Renan.
The Brazilian goalkeeper was also called up on the last 10 minutes and deflected away a right-foot attempt by Sepp de Roover.
Brazil rarely troubled Bailly in the second half until time was up and a solo effort by Jo saw him take the ball just inside the Belgium and weave his way into the clear to hammer home Brazil's third goal.
The bronze medals adds to Brazil's collection of two silvers (1984, 1988) and another bronze at Atlanta in 1996, but again the one prize they want, an Olympic gold medal, has eluded the five times world champion.
Belgium at least have the history books to show they won the Olympic final at the 1920 Antwerp Games.
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