Captain Neymar was in tears after he delivered Brazil’s first Olympic men’s football gold medal, scoring the winning penalty in a 5-4 shootout victory over Germany. Nigeria beat Honduras to bronze.
“This is one of the best things that have happened in my life,” Neymar summed up what winning Olympic gold at home meant to him. “I can’t begin to describe my feelings. I have fulfilled my dream and to have fulfilled it in my home country makes me very proud.”
The match finished 1-1 after extra time, with Neymar having put Brazil ahead with a superb free kick in the 27th minute before Germany skipper Maximilian Meyer equalised with a fine strike just before the hour mark.
There were no goals in extra time. The game went to penalties, but despite Germany being known as the kings of shootouts, Nils Petersen was first to miss a spot kick as the fifth taker. Neymar then stepped up to fire home the title winner in front of home fans. The captain’s successful kick sparked wild celebrations at the Maracanã.
Brazil coach Rogerio Micale was delighted to finally earn the Olympic gold: “There was a lot of anxiety and tension as I knew we would be facing a strong team in Germany. We had players who were extremely dedicated, professional and with great technical skill. I’ll leave with the sensation of having done my duty. I am sure this will give reason for pride and confidence in the Brazilian people in the national team. We knew there was huge responsibility on the Olympic team because of how important football is to the country.”
Brazil’s men started their football tournament slowly, flirting with elimination in the group stage after two 0-0 draws, but soared to a rousing and successful finale. Brazil had lost the Olympic final three times in 1984, 1988 and 2012 but have now won the only international title to elude them by beating the country who had humiliated them 7-1 in the world cup semi-finals on home soil in 2014.