An Olympic gold medal in soccer for Brazil will not undo the embarrassment of the 2014 World Cup. Perhaps nothing will. But Saturday provided a dramatic recovery, a tense rekindling of joy where before there was national shame.
Maracana Stadium filled with celebration and relief as Brazil won its first Olympic soccer title, defeating Germany, 5-4, on penalty kicks after the match remained tied at 1-1 through 120 minutes. The victory provided some redemption from, if not erasure of, a humiliating 7-1 defeat to Die Mannschaft at home in the semifinals of the World Cup.
When the Brazilian goalkeeper Weverton dived to his left to save a penalty kick by Germany’s Nils Petersen, the anxiety of the evening exploded into liberation.
The final was billed as an opportunity for revenge for the hosts, who were dumped out of their home World Cup in humiliating fashion by the same opponents two years ago.
And Neymar put them on course for victory in the first period.
The Barcelona man sent a 25-yard set-piece over the wall and in off the underside of Timo Horn’s bar to spark jubilant scenes inside the Maracana.
But the talisman’s superb strike only kicked Germany into life as they thrice struck the woodwork in search of parity before the break.
And the visitors forced the issue after the interval. In front of the watching Usain Bolt, Max Meyer swept home Jeremy Toljan’s cross to haul Germany back into gold medal contention.
Brazil, backed by a carnival of colour in the stands, sought depserately to re-establish the advantage thereafter and looked most likely as the game meandered towards the end of the regulation 90 minutes.
But tiredness took hold in the additional period as both sides appeared happy to settle matters from 18 yards.
And after eight successful penalties in a row, Germany’s Nils Petersen missed to set the stage for Neymar to win the medal.