Sunday 21 August 2016, 01:36

Brazil find redemption, make history at the Maracana

THE DAY REPLAYED – No matter what, history was going to be made at the Maracana. Neither Brazil nor Germany had managed to win gold in the Men’s Olympic Football Tournament. Brazil had three silver medals and two bronze, while Germany’s third-place finish at Seoul 1988 represented their best ever showing at the Games.

A gold on home soil against the Germans would never completely heal the wounds of the 7-1 semi-final Germany win in Belo Horizonte two years ago at the FIFA World Cup™, but the opportunity for Brazil to write a new and historic chapter in their football history was there for the taking.

Overlooking the historic Maracana in Rio de Janeiro is the iconic Christ the Redeemer statue, and it was Brazil’s moment for redemption on Saturday evening. The Brazilian fans in the Maracana sent positive vibes the team’s way well before kick-off, singing “Today is the day for happiness”, a traditional Rio de Janeiro song and “Get up on your feet if you’ve won five world titles” throughout the early stages of the final.

Neymar then gave the nation what they were all waiting for when he scored a superb free-kick from about 25 yards out in the 27th minute. As soon as his shot hit off the crossbar, bounced up and kissed the inside of Germany’s top netting, the Maracana was rocking and bouncing with hope of finally capturing the coveted gold medal. Germany captain Max Meyer then shocked the hosts in the 59th minute, becoming the first player to score against Brazil in the entire tournament.

After the gold medal match could not be decided in regular time and extra time, a penalty shoot-out was needed to crown the champions, and it was Neymar who scored the winning goal, ending Brazil’s wait for an Olympic gold at the Maracana, the centre of the country’s football heart and soul and leaving the supporters singing “the champion is back."

Earlier in the day in Belo Horizonte, Nigeria capped off a successful Rio 2016 campaign by holding off a resilient Honduras side 3-2 thanks to a brace from Sadiq Umar and a goal from Aminu Umar. ‘Dream Team VI’ completed the country’s sweep of Olympic medals in the competition, having won gold in 1996 and silver in 2008.

Results Gold medal match Brazil 1-1 Germany AET (5-4 PSO)

Bronze medal match Honduras 2-3 Nigeria

Goal of the day Brazil 1-0 Germany, Neymar (27’) Neymar curled in a picture-perfect free-kick to release the palpable tension in the Rio air during the opening stages of the final. From about 25 yards out and slightly on Brazil’s left, A Seleção’s captain hit the dead ball with his right boot, putting enough spin on it to leave Germany goalkeeper Timo Horn helpless, sending the packed crowd at the Maracana into a frenzy.

Memorable moments*Neymar's tears of joy* After coolly converting the winning penalty to bring his country its first ever gold medal, Neymar was moved to tears with his face in the ground, taken in by the magnitude of the occasion. His raw, tearful emotion then turned to pure joy as he was seen taking a victory lap around the Maracana, celebrating finally bringing Brazil a long-awaited gold medal.

O Captain! My Captain! Captains are there to take responsibility and show up for their team in the crucial moments, and that’s exactly what both of the men with the armband did in the spotlight during the gold medal match. Neymar and Meyer both stepped up and opened the scoring for their sides in Rio.

Mikel the provider ‘Dream Team VI’ captain Mikel John Obi was involved in all three of Nigeria’s goals in their 3-2 win over Honduras in the bronze medal match in Belo Horizonte. His contribution on the first goal was perhaps the simplest. After making a run all the way to Honduras’ goal-line, Mikel looked up and slid a pass across the face of the goal for Sadiq Umar to easily tap in for the opener. The Chelsea man relished being in a leadership role and will no doubt be pleased with his involvement in all three of Nigeria’s goal en route to bronze.

*A tale of two crossbars *On three occasions in the first half of the final, the Germans came within inches of scoring. Julian Brandt had a long distance shot crash against Weverton’s crossbar early in the match, while Niklas Suele and Sven Bender then had two more chances later on in the half denied only by the crossbar. The crossbar was kind to Brazil on the night, however, as Neymar’s stunning opening goal hit off the bar before bouncing over Horn’s line.

*A good day to be an Umar *If your surname is Umar and you play for Nigeria’s Olympic squad, it was your day. Sadiq Umar and Aminu Umar scored all of Nigeria’s goals en route to earning their country a bronze medal at Rio 2016. 19-year-old Sadiq’s two goals took his tournament tally to four, while Aminu showed his ability once again to score goals in knockout stage matches as he got his first of the tournament in the quarter-finals against Denmark.

The words

Jamaican sprinter and nine-time Olympic gold medallist Usain Bolt, who was in attendance at the gold medal match, congratulated Neymar after the historic win as the Brazilian mimicked his now iconic celebration

After Neymar's penalty secured the win for the hosts in the final, it was announced that Denmark had been given the FIFA Fair Play Award.