21 August 2016
Brazil claimed their first Olympic Football Tournament gold medal in the most dramatic of finals, with Neymar scoring the winning penalty in a shoot-out to defeat Germany 5-4 on Saturday.
The FC Barcelona player’s penalty kick rounded off a game which had finished 1-1 after 120 minutes.
He had opened the scoring, with Max Meyer levelling in the second half.
With no more goals in extra time, the game went to penalties, with Weverton saving Nils Peteresen’s spot-kick before Neymar scored the golden penalty.
The atmosphere before kick-off was crackling with anticipation, with scores of Brazilian fans milling around the Maracana hours before the game got underway.
The Brazilian national anthem was greeted with a deafening Brazilian crowd, who sang along with gusto.
If anybody thought the Germans would be anticipated by the “home’’ crowd, they would be mistaken.
The Horst Hrubesch’s side calm and composed on the ball when the game got underway, and they also had the better of the opportunities in the opening period.
After 11 minutes, incidentally the same minute in which Thomas Muller opened the scoring in that semi-final, Julian Brandt went close to emulating the Bayern Munich man.
He received the ball in space from Serge Gnabry after good work down the left by the Arsenal man and curled an effort at goal which rebounded off the crossbar.
Brazil would then hit the woodwork, in more productive fashion, to take the lead.
Neymar spotted up a free-kick around 25 yards from goal, and hit a superb, dipping effort in off the underside of the bar, which left Timo Horn with no chance.
The Germans then hit the crossbar again, with Max Meyer’s curled free-kick nodded on by Suele, with a Brazilian deflection taking it over with the help of the crossbar.
From the resulting corner, Meyer struck a venomous drive which was brilliantly kept out by Weverton.
Brandt then dinked a delicate free-kick into the Brazilian penalty area, which Sven Bender nodded on past a stranded Weverton, and the ball hitting the crossbar for the third time and over.
After the break the Germans finally broke the Brazilian backline’s resistance and, after 509 minutes of Rio 2016, Weverton was beaten.
The ball was worked well by the Germans out to the galloping right back Jeremy Toljan, who crossed into Meyer who calmly slotted past Brazil’s goalkeeper.
Felipe Anderson was presented with the best opportunity of what remained of normal time, put clean through on goal by Neymar.
The Lazio winger could not quite get the ball out of his feet and rather scuffed his shot under pressure from the German defence tracking back.
In extra time, Brazil saw a forward sprint clear of the German backline three times, but none of Gabriel Jesus, Luan or Felipe Anderson could capitalise on their chances.
The Brazilians had waited 64 years since their first Olympic Football Tournament to win gold, and their fans were made to wait through the agony of extra time and penalties.
Eight perfect spot-kicks were converted before Petersen saw his effort saved, with Neymar keeping his cool to convert the winning penalty kick.