Brazil won its first-ever Olympic gold medal in men’s soccer on Saturday, beating Germany 5-4 in penalty kicks.
Neymar, the team’s captain and the country’s biggest soccer star, converted the fifth and final penalty kick to win the game. Afterwards — indeed, almost at the exact moment the ball appeared to cross the goal-line — Neymar broke down in tears like we’ve never seen him before.
It’s a terrific moment — not just for Neymar, but for the entire country. Brazil, somehow, had never won a gold medal in Olympic men’s soccer, and to do it on their home turf is special. What’s even more special is that they managed to do it against Germany, the country that beat them in the World Cup semifinal, 7-1, back in 2014. That game, remember, was also in Brazil and considered a national embarrassment.
The pressure on the Brazilian soccer players was enormous, and nobody felt that more than Neymar. He faced harsh criticism leading up to the Games, and throughout his side’s lacklustre start to the tournament the weight fell on his shoulders.
But in the final, the Barcelona star showed why he’s one of the best in the world. In the first half, he put the host nation in the lead with a picture-perfect free kick. The ball curled over the wall and hit the bottom of the crossbar, bouncing down and across the line.
The goalie had no chance, even if he was just fingertips away:
Germany equalised in the second half, which set up the dramatics in extra time and then penalty kicks.
The decision to have Neymar shoot fifth was certainly a questionable one. If a Brazilian player had missed, there could have been a scenario in which Germany won and Neymar wouldn’t even had had a chance to shoot. Imagine the critics if that had happened.
Luckily, it didn’t. Instead, we get the ending to the Olympic soccer that Brazil deserves.
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