Maracana became a sea of endless celebrations when Neymar scored from the last spot-kick in the penalty shoot-out. The Brazilians rejoiced on the historic occasion as their nation snatched the men’s football gold in a 5-4 shoot-out result against Germany, after a 1-1 draw in regulation and extra time. History was in the making anyway since Germany also had never won the gold medal in Olympic Games. But the hosts wanted it more than the European powerhouse after missing it three times already. Their woman had already made the exit and it was all the more important for Brazil to win the men’s final since football honors are preferred to those in any other sport. As for Germany, the bronze in the 1988 Seoul Olympics had been their best finish and therefore, even in the loss, they improved on their Olympic showing. The bronze was taken by Nigeria with a hard-fought 3-2 victory over Honduras at Belo Horizonte. In the women’s tournament, Germany defeated Sweden 2-1 and therefore the men’s team loss to Brazil next day was somewhat compensated in retrospect. The women’s final was played on Friday also at Maracana, where the German women had to fight hard against the Swedes, who had shocked USA and Brazil in their earlier games. The gold medal finish by German women was also a farewell present to their famous coach Silvia Neid, who retired in some style after her 11-year reign. The women’s football bronze went to Canada, who disappointed hosts Brazil with a 2-1 victory at Sao Paulo.
Celebrated Jamaican Usain Bolt was one of the spectators of the gold medal match between Brazil and Germany that was decided on the penalty shoot-out at Maracana. The stadium was packed with excitement and expectations long before the match began. The five-time world champions were facing Germany in the backdrop of their 7-1 drubbing by the same team in the 2014 World Cup. They wanted redemption on Saturday at a place, which offered a picturesque view of the iconic Christ the Redeemer. The brilliant Neymar gave Brazil what they had been looking for. In the 27th minute, he produced a free-kick that sailed deceptively in air before hitting the crossbar. But the rebound kissed the top of the inside net and Brazil went 1-0 ahead. Just when the crowd believed that the gold medal was theirs, German captain Max Meyer spoiled their party with a 59th equalizer.
The remaining part of regulation time remained goalless as also the 30-minute extra time. Now the fate of both teams hung on the ensuing penalty shoot-out. After both teams converted their first four penalties, Nils Petersen missed Germany’s fifth attempt. Now the gold medal wrested on Neymar’s final spot-kick. Here was a man, who didn’t play in Brazil’s humiliating 1-7 debacle against Germany in the World Cup. But on Saturday, Neymar didn’t err, when he sent the penalty for the decisive 5-4 win and the Olympic gold. Maracana and Brazil erupted in euphoric scenes at the historic victory. Usain Bolt tweeted soon afterwards and conveyed his congratulations to Brazil. Four hours earlier at Belo Horizonte, Nigeria edged out the extremely resilient Honduran football team with a 3-2 margin with 2 goals from Sadiq Umar and one from Aminu Umar. Though Honduras pulled back two, they couldn’t stop the Dream Team from winning the bronze.
On Friday, Maracana witnessed the women’s final between Germany and Sweden. It was believed that the Swedish team would continue with their defensive tactics like they had done in their last three matches but against Germany, they began on a positive note. In the 25th minute, Anja Mittag had a great chance on Germany’s open goal. But her shot flew too high and wide. After the goalless first half, Germany scored in the 48th minute and took a 1-0 lead, when Dzsenifer Maroszan collected a cross on the edge of the box, gave herself enough adjusting time and powered a perfect curler on the top right corner. 14 minutes later, Germany extended their lead through a slice of luck. Sara Daebritz had taken free-kick from 20 yards but her strike hit the post. However, in trying to clear the ball, Sweden’s Linda Sembrandt kneed it into her own goal. However, Sweden made partial amends 5 minutes later, when Olivia Schough sent a low cross and Stina Blackstenius barged between two defenders to poke the ball into the German goal. The remaining time was spent in attacks and counter-attacks but no side could produce any further goal and Germany ended up as the new Olympic champion.
Women’s football bronze was won by Canada, who defeated Brazil at Sao Paulo earlier on Friday. It was a sad end for the hosts, who looked like the gold winner at the start of the tournament but their semifinal loss to Sweden took the momentum away. Against Canada, Brazilian women played listlessly and the Canadians took advantage of the disheartened women and pressurized early. They took the 1-0 lead in the 25th minute from a goal by Rose and soon after the second half, the lead doubled, when Sinclair scored. Brazil’s best two players; Marta and Christiane couldn’t get into the groove and Brazil suffered. Despite a 78th minute goal from Brazil, Canada always looked a better side and won the bronze with a 2-1 victory.
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