Gabriel Jesus

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Neymar, Brazil score early and often, advance to gold medal match in Rio

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Braces from Neymar and Gabriel Jesus led Brazil to a Olympic semifinal demolition of Honduras at the Maracana Stadium in Rio on Wednesday.

Marquinhos, and Luan also scored for Brazil in a 6-0 win.

Brazil will face the winner of Germany and Nigeria’s afternoon match in the final on Saturday.

WATCH: Neymar’s goalMatch replay

The first :15 seconds of Wednesday’s men’s soccer semifinal between Brazil and Honduras had a little bit of everything.

First, a horrible giveaway from Honduras. Then, a goal from home country superstar Neymar.

Finally, that same superstar on the field with an apparently chest injury. Twice. He was stretchered off, only to return (though this was not the sort of faux injury that fuels the vitriol of soccer haters).

Neymar picked the pocket of a defender before seeing a loose ball bound off Honduran keeper, off him, and then into the goal.

But he clutched his chest on the turf during the celebration, then ran a few steps before dropping to the turf again. After being stretchered off, the Barcelona star returned to the game.

Gabriel Jesus scored in the 26th minute to boost Brazil’s lead to 2-0, and added another before halftime.

All the breaks well Brazil’s way, as missed Honduras’ clearance was accidentally trapped by Marquinhos outside the six. The PSG man easily tapped home to make it 4-0.

Felipe Anderson found Luan for a cross-six goal in the 79th minute for Brazil’s fifth goal.

A cynical takedown of Luan in the box in the 90th minute provided for the final penalty, converted by Neymar. He feigned a free throw in celebration, and the match was over.

Brazil rolls into men’s soccer knockout stage

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After two matches in which they failed to score a single goal, Brazil’s men’s soccer team was on the receiving end of a great deal of criticism heading into their group stage finale against Denmark Wednesday night. With Neymar Jr. and Gabriel Barbosa, nicknamed “Gabigol” for his ability to put the ball into the back of the net, the Brazilians weren’t expecting to see their team struggle as they did in scoreless draws against South Africa and Iraq.

That all changed against the Danes, as Gabriel Barbosa got the hosts onto the scoreboard in the 26th minute. From there Brazil would go on to score three more times, beating Denmark 4-0 to win Group A and clinch a spot in the knockout stage. Denmark also managed to go through, with Iraq and South Africa playing to a 1-1 draw keeping the Danes in second place on four points.

WATCH: Brazil rolls past Denmark, wins Group A

In the quarterfinal round Brazil will take on South American rival Colombia, while Denmark draws Group B winner Nigeria.

While Brazil managed to shake out of its funk Wednesday, the two teams whose nations combined to win the last three men’s soccer gold medals are headed home. Argentina, Brazil’s bitter rivals, finished tied for second in Group D with Honduras but inferior goal differential means that the gold medalists in 2004 and 2008 failed to advance. The 2012 gold medalists are also out, with Mexico finishing third in Group C behind South Korea and Germany.

Germany posted the high score of the day, as they routed Fiji 10-0 with Nils Petersen responsible for five of the goals. Next up for Germany is Group D winner Portugal, with South Korea facing Honduras in the quarterfinals.

WATCH LIVE: Neymar, loaded hosts Brazil open Olympics versus South Africa

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Neymar gets his first chance to influence a major international tournament this summer when hosts Brazil face-off with South Africa at what’s sure to be an electric Estádio Nacional Mané Garrincha in Brasília on Thursday.

The 3 p.m. EDT kickoff sees the Barcelona star and his tournament favorite side open play in its group, three hours after Iraq and Denmark got Group A started.

WATCH: Brazil vs. South Africa at NBCOlympics.com

In addition to Neymar, there’s his Barca teammate Rafinha and Lazio standout Felipe Anderson. The side will be buoyed in the back by Paris Saint-Germain mainstay Marquinhos, and new Manchester City man Gabriel Jesus joins “Gabigol” of Santos as a dangerous young combination in attack.

26-times capped 26-year-old Eric Mathoho and 75-times capped goalekeeper Itumeleng Khune lead a South African unit that will need to pull off a major shock to get a point against the hosts.

In addition to streaming onNBCOlympics.com, the match will also be available on the NBC Sports app.