It won`t take the sting of a World Cup shellacking away, but it`ll help: Brazil beat Germany in Olympic soccer Saturday, in a win that earns the men`s team their first gold medal.
Brazilian star Neymar opened the scoring midway through the first half, bending a beautiful free kick over the wall of defenders and toward the net – where it clipped the underside of the crossbar and eluded German goalie Timo Horn.
By the start of the second half, Germany had taken four shots on goal to Brazil`s one. But the Brazilian fans were ecstatic with the way things were going.
Germany`s Maximilian Meyer tied the game around the 60-minute mark finishing off a sequence of crisp passes — from the center to the right side, then zipping back to the middle — with a clean shot that eluded Brazil`s goalkeeper, Weverton.
From there, the match grew increasingly tense as both teams sought the edge that would give them the victory outright.
But that edge never materialized for either side, and despite a couple of shots by Brazil in added time at the end of regulation, the score remained 1-1 — and stayed that way through two extra-time periods.
The large and boisterous crowd — Maracana Stadium was packed for this game — grew increasingly frantic as the game wore on, and the host fans lost any patience they ever might have had for Germany`s ponderous pace. A roar of deafening whistles rained down on the field in the second extra period, and the Germans passed the ball around on their half of the field.
After two even halves and two scoreless extra periods, the game went to penalty kicks — and neither side seemed willing to blink. Each player`s shot was greeted with either a shout or a moan from thousands of voices. That scene played out for 4 goals each — and then when Nils Petersen finally missed on Germany`s fifth try, the arena burst into a full-throated roar. Weverton had read Petersen`s move correctly, diving to his left to stop the shot and send the crowd into euphoria.
Neymar then stepped up to take his country`s penalty spot. He gave the ball a close inspection, placed it in position, and drilled it into the net. The Olympic drought was over, and Brazil had beaten Germany on Brazilian soil, 1-1 (5-4).
As he approached for his shot, the Brazilian star had done a full stop, seemingly to feel out where German goalkeeper Timo Horn was leaning. He then followed through quickly, sending the ball into the left side of the net and past Horn`s outstretched mitts.
For Brazil, this was a win to savor. Their victory lap morphed into photos with family and friends — several players` children came onto the field to help celebrate. When the medal ceremony came, the players danced on the podium together. And 30 minutes after the game, they were still on the field — and many of their fans were still here at Maracana, as well, singing and cheering.
Wearing blue shorts and their bright yellow jerseys, Brazil maintained a possession advantage through the first half – 56 percent to 44 percent. That dynamic didn`t change in the second half, with Germany, dressed in gray and black, relying on its defense to defuse Brazil`s attack.
Brazil`s arrival in the gold medal match capped a remarkable rebound for the men`s team, who were widely ridiculed after their early struggles in this tournament – which included a 0-0 draw with Iraq, which was then ranked No. 99 in the world.
Germany defended well all match: midway through the second half, Brazil had still managed only one shot on goal out of six shots total. But that dynamic shifted as Brazil pressed for the advantage. By the end of regulation, Brazil had fired off 10 shots in the second half, compared to just three in the first.
This was a physical match: Brazil drew two yellow cards and Germany four — three of them came within the last 15 minutes of the second period.