Neymar fails to spark Brazil in South Africa stalemate

Rio De Janeiro, Barcelona star Neymar failed to provide the flying start Brazil wanted in their quest for a maiden football gold medal as the hosts were held 0-0 by 10-man South Africa in their Olympic opener.

Neymar is by far the biggest name taking part in the football competition and has been tasked with restoring pride to Brazilian football after a catastrophic 7-1 defeat to Germany on home soil at the 2014 World Cup.

However, he endured a frustrating afternoon on a sandy and slow surface in Brasilia as South Africa held out despite Mothobi Mvala's red card half an hour from time.

Group A is now in a four-way tie on one point after Iraq and Denmark also played out a scoreless draw earlier. 

In contrast to the swaths of empty stands across the six cities being used to host the men's and women's football tournaments on the opening two days, the hosts commanded a near-capacity 70,000 crowd.

However, the Brazilian side boasting Neymar, Manchester City's new 27 million ($35.4 million) signing Gabriel Jesus and Marquinhos of Paris Saint-Germain did not provide the expected victory procession. 

South Africa's Lebo Mothiba had a host of chances to cause an almighty upset, but failed to make a ragged Brazilian defence pay for early nerves.

Neymar proudly sported the captain's armband, but his desire to get involved by dropping deep often left him too far from the South African goal to make a telling impact. 

The Barcelona star had Brazil's best two efforts of the first-half with strikes from outside the box that forced South African 'keeper Itumeleng Khune into two stunning saves.

South Africa dominated the early stages of the second-half with Mothiba and captain Keagen Dolly coming close. But their chances appeared to have gone when defender Mvala was sent-off for two quickfire yellow cards.

Brazil ramped up the pressure. Jesus somehow turned the ball onto the post with the goal gaping, whilst a dipping drive from Neymar landed on the roof of the net.

PTI