With the entire Maracana willing the ball to go in, already dreaming of the celebrations that would follow, Neymar stepped up, did that modern-day penalty taker stutter and then slotted the ball in to cue pandemonium. Brazil’s wait for a gold medal in men’s football in the Olympics finally ended, thanks to their talisman.
Neymar scored the opening goal of this Rio 2016 Olympics gold medal match, with a sumptuous freekick, before stepping up to strike the winning spotkick as Brazil beat Germany 5-4 in the penalty shootout, after the match ended 1-1 in the 90 minutes and the extra 30 after that.
After Neymar gave Brazil the lead in the 26th minute, Max Meyer, the Germany captain, equalised a minute before the hour to take this match right down to the wire, where the man with the golden boot stepped up in some style.
It all looked really good for Brazil, as Neymar struck the opener just before the half hour, through a freekick that hit the top of the crossbar and went in.
This was a gold medal match, that wasn’t exactly high on excitement and end-to-end action, but it was gripping nonetheless, with Germany showing that fight they are famous for. After hitting the woodwork a couple of times, both Julian Brandt and Sven Bender were unlucky not to score, Meyer was cool as ice to produce a nice finish off a cross from Jeremy Toljan.
The match just could not be decided in open play after that, which meant that dreaded/can-also-be-wonderful penalty shootout.
After the first eight players made their penalties, Germany’s Nils Petersen, who scored five goals against Fiji in a group game, became the first in this gold medal match to miss a spotkick.
That meant the stage was perfectly set for Neymar to be the hero, and the hero he became by finding the back of the net to gain a measure of revenge for the 7-1 semifinal defeat in the 2014 World Cup.
Earlier, the bronze medal went to Nigeria, who held off a late fightback from Honduras. After taking a 3-0 lead through goals from Sadiq Umar, who had two, and Aminu Umar, Honduras brought the score down to 3-2 thanks to goals from Antony Lozano and Marcelo Pereira, with the Central American team’s second goal coming in the 86th minute.
With little time to find the equaliser and force the match into extra time, Nigeria kept Honduras at bay to take the bronze medal.