Thiago Silva, Hulk make Brazil's Olympic squad
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By TALES AZZONI,
Updated July 5, 2012
SAO PAULO (AP) Brazil coach Mano Menezes included AC Milan defender Thiago Silva and FC Porto striker Hulk in Brazil's squad that will try to give the nation its first Olympic gold medal in soccer.
Real Madrid defender Marcelo was the other overage player included in the 18-man squad selected on Thursday by Menezes for the London Games. Soccer at the Olympics is played with under-23 squads, but each team can use three overage players.
As expected, Brazil squad also includes several promising young stars such as Neymar, Paulo Henrique Ganso, Leandro Damiao, Lucas, Oscar and Alexandre Pato.
The Olympic tournament is the only significant soccer title that Brazil has never won. The Brazilian soccer federation has already said winning the gold is a priority. A setback may cost Menezes his job ahead of the 2014 World Cup at home.
Brazil is one of the few teams taking its best players to London and will be among the favorites for the gold. Many of the players in the Olympic team are expected to be in the World Cup team, too.
Among the players who were in the initial list of 35 players pre-selected by Menezes but didn't make the final cut are Chelsea defender David Luiz, Barcelona right back Daniel Alves and Espanyol forward Philippe Coutinho.
Past stars such as Kaka, Robinho and Ronaldinho had already been ruled out. Menezes also picked four players to stay on standby in case of injuries to players in the main squad.
Menezes said Hulk was picked as one of the over-23 players in part because of his good performances in the four exhibitions Brazil played in preparation for the Olympic tournament.
"He brings a lot of strength to the team," Menezes said. "His experience will be important in big matches. He has a great ability to be decisive."
The coach said he felt it was important to include a striker among the three overage players.
"I think the national team gains a lot by having an experienced player in the offense too, not only in defense," Menezes said.
Thiago Silva had already been set to make the squad for quite some time, and Marcelo secured his spot after playing well in the team's recent exhibitions - victories against Denmark and the United States and losses to Mexico and Argentina.
Brazil won the Olympic silver in 1984 and 1988, and the bronze in 1996 and 2008, when Argentina took gold with a team led by Lionel Messi.
Brazil will travel to Europe on July 16 and will play an exhibition against Olympic hosts Great Britain just days before its July 26 debut against Egypt at Millennium Stadium in Cardiff, Wales.
Brazil will play Belarus at Old Trafford on July 29 and New Zealand in Newcastle on Aug. 1 to close out its play in Group C.