Neymar was the toast of Brazilian football Saturday after converting the winning penalty in a shoot-out to give Brazil a first Olympic football gold as they beat Germany in the men’s final at a raucous Maracana Stadium.
After a 1-1 draw over regulation and extra time, the Barcelona star stayed calm to stroke home the decisive kick, after Weverton saved from Nils Petersen in the only failure from the spot.
Neymar himself had opened the scoring with a 26th minute free kick, after being fouled, when he curled a magnificent shot over the wall and beyond despairing keeper Timo Horn.
After the break, Max Meyer levelled for Germany just before the hour, but Neymer and Weverton ensured the Brazil fans could party long into the Rio de Janeiro night.
In addition to ending the 64-year wait for Olympic gold since they first entered football at the 1952 Games, the Brazilians also gained a modicum of revenge for the 7-1 humiliation suffered at the hands of the Germans in the 2014 home World Cup semi-final.
That loss threw Brazilian football into a slump that was worsened by a dismal group stage exit from the Copa America earlier this year. Neymar was rested from that tournament with the goal of Olympic gold in mind and, on the biggest stage, he delivered.
A foul by Matthias Ginter – an unnecessary and careless late tackle – was his cue. For a short moment, the yellow-clad hordes in the stands held their breath until, with the ball nestling in the net, they could explode in hugging and screaming with joy.
The goal had been coming on the balance of play as Brazil, after Julian Brandt curved a superb shot onto the bar, had been the better team even without creating clear chances.
But going in front caused the nerves which had settled to rise again. First, Marquinhos turned a free kick off his own bar and Weverton was lucky his weak parry on Brandt’s shot from the resulting corner was
Sven Bender then glanced a header onto the bar as half-time arrived with Germany, somehow, trailing.
That injustice was righted in the 59th minute as Brandt fed the overlapping full-back Jeremy Toljan on the right and his cross was met by Meyer. A low shot flew across Weverton and into the far corner
to silence from all but a handful of Germany fans.
Gabriel Jesus sidefooted past the post and Neymar shot just wide as Brazil, roared on by their fanatical followers, tried to regain their lead.
Germany were unable to retain possession in midfield, but Meyer shot wide from 18 yards at the end of a rare breakaway before the game went to extra time.
Luan lost a good chance through hesitating at the crucial moment and Brandt guided a volley over at full-stretch as, with legs tiring, play raged from end to end.
Horn saved from Felipe Anderson on the only chance in the second of the added periods and the tie was settled on penalties.
Ginter, Serge Gnabry, Brandt and Niklas Suele all converted for Germany before Petersen’s fatal miss. Renato Augusto, Marquinhos, Rafael Alcantara and Luan stayed cool for Brazil to set up Neymar for
Earlier Saturday, Nigeria had claimed the bronze by holding off Honduras 3-2 in Mineirao. Umar Sadiq’s double sandwiched Aminu Umar’s goal to put the 1996 winners three up before late headers from Anthony Lozano and Marcelo Pereira restored some pride for Honduras.