Neymar makes Brazil the Olympic football kings
Neymar scored a brilliant goal and the decisive shootout penalty as Brazil buried their World Cup demons by beating Germany in the Olympic football final on Saturday.
The 5-4 penalty win was close. Neymar and his teammates all sank to their knees, many in uncontrollable tears at the centrepiece of a day of 30 gold medals in Rio.
Park In-Bee of South Korea won the first women’s Olympic golf gold for 116 years, the United States routed Spain in the women’s basketball final. Even scandal-tainted Russia won four golds while losing a silver from 2012 because of another doping case.
But Brazil came to a standstill because of Neymar and football.
Supermarket checkout clerks watched the match on their mobile phones, taxi drivers gathered around any available screen to see the Selecao take on Germany — and seek revenge for a 7-1 humiliation by their opponents in a World Cup semi-final two years ago.
In front of 78,000 people — the biggest crowd of the Rio Olympics — Neymar twisted a free kick past German goalkeeper Timo Horn to give Brazil a first-half lead.
German captain Max Meyer swept home Jeremy Toljan’s cross to equalise and then taunted the Maracana stadium crowd by kissing the number seven on his shirt.
The game went through extra time and eight penalties in deadlock until Germany’s Nils Petersen missed his spot kick.
Barcelona star Neymar rifled the final penalty into the corner after a half-faint and a whole nation erupted in celebration.
Victory may not get Brazil into the top 10 of the Olympic medals table at the end of competition on Sunday, but it was the one gold the country wanted. Street celebrations erupted after the final whistle.
Park triumphed in the first women’s Olympic golf tournament since 1900 by five strokes from New Zealand’s Lydia Ko. Victory ended doubts about a thumb injury that has forced her to miss tournaments in recent months and about her ability to handle big tournament pressure.
“I really wanted to do well this week to show people that I can still play,” Park said.
Russia came to Rio under a doping scandal shadow and missing its key track and field stars. But it snared four golds — in women’s handball and team rhythmic gymnastics and for world record-holder Alexander Lesun in modern pentathlon and Abdulrashid Sadulaev in freestyle wrestling — to take its total to 17 golds in all and fourth place in the overall table.
The 20-year-old Sadulaev said after his 5-0 win over Turkey’s Selim Yaser that his parents had tried to stop him becoming a wrestler.
“All of my relatives were against it but as soon as I started to do well they realised it was my destiny,” he said.
China’s Chen Long inflicted more Olympic heartache on Malaysia’s Lee Chong Wei with a straight games win for gold in the men’s badminton singles final.
Lee, beaten in the past two Olympic finals by Lin Dan, disposed of his Chinese nemesis in the semis in Rio but couldn’t get past Chen for a gold that would have been Malaysia’s first in any sport.
“The key here was that a Chinese man won badminton gold. It was a little bit unexpected for me but all the hard work has paid off,” said Chen.
In boxing, Cuban men captured two golds — Arlen Lopez took the middleweight title and Robeisy Ramirez claimed bantamweight.
Britain’s Nicola Adams became the first woman to retain an Olympic boxing title in the flyweight division.
The 17 days of competition end on Sunday with the United States, already on 40 golds and past 1,000 golds in their overall history, certain to top the table.
Britain with 26 golds were hoping to hold off China, just two behind.
Brazil waited to see how International Olympic Committee president Thomas Bach would describe the Rio Games — dogged by financial crisis, empty stadiums and athlete muggings (real and invented) — at Sunday’s gala closing ceremony when Tokyo takes over the Olympic flag.
On Saturday, Bach said the Games had been “iconic“.
Brazil had shown “that it is possible to organise the Olympics in countries which are not at the top of the GDP ranking,” he said.