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May 24, 2020

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Hosts prevail 5-4 on penalties after a 1-1 draw in a dramatic men's final at the Maracanã

Neymar fires Brazil to first Olympic Games football gold medal in penalty shoot-out victory against Germany

Brazil beat Germany in a penalty shoot-out to end their long wait for an Olympic Games football gold medal in the most dramatic of circumstances at an emotionally charged Maracanã on Saturday (20 August). The hosts' talisman Neymar stepped up to score the winning spot-kick and seal a 5-4 shoot-out win after goalkeeper Weverton had saved Germany's fifth penalty, taken by Nils Petersen. Neymar, who fell to his knees and broke down in tears after sinking the decisive penalty, had initially put Brazil ahead in the 26th minute with a spectacular free-kick, which was cancelled out by Max Meyer's second-half equaliser for Germany. Rio-time updates: follow the action with our daily live blog

As well as ending a quest for football gold that had become a Brazilian national obsession, the hosts' victory also went some way to healing the deep wounds inflicted by the last meeting between these two sides - a 7-1 victory for Germany in the 2014 FIFA World Cup semi-final. Although Brazil coach Rogerio Micale played down pre-match talk of targeting "revenge" for that defeat, the whistles that greeted the Germans in their pre-match warm-up indicated that memories of that harrowing night in Belo Horizonte were still raw for many fans. Yet despite the inevitable parallels drawn between the two games, on the field they had little in common. There was not a single player on either side who took part in the match two years ago. Cacophonous noise Still, any doubts about the importance of this gold medal to Brazil were answered by the cacophonous noise created by the 78,000 fans packed inside the Maracana. Their desperation for victory contributed to a Brazil performance that was high on energy and passion, if not always composure. The home side enjoyed plenty of possession with little end product until Neymar was sent tumbling - the Brazil captain picking himself up to bend a majestic free-kick in off the bar. Neymar celebrates putting Brazil ahead (Photo: Getty Images/Paul Gilham) Brazil continued to push forward at every opportunity - driven on by their exciting attacking quartet of Neymar, Gabriel Jesus, Gabriel Barbosa and Luan - but their slick opponents fashioned the clearest chances.

Brazil’s two Gabriels set to light up Rio 2016 Olympic football tournament Julian Brandt's curling 25-metre drive hit the crossbar before Sven Bender's header bounced off the bar and a Brazilian defensive clearance also hit the woodwork. The Germans' pressure paid off when Jeremy Toljan crossed for the unmarked Max Meyer to sweep home clinically on 59 minutes. Meyer fires the Germans level (Photo: Getty Images/Lars Baron) If anything, the equaliser added an extra layer of intensity to the already-bristling atmosphere and - with the crowd roaring them on - Brazil took control of the game and Neymar came centimetres away from a sublime second goal from the edge of the area. But while Brazil's Olympic Games failures are well-documented, Germany were also targeting their first men's football gold medal (discounting East Germany's triumph at the Montreal 1976 Games) as well as a Rio 2016 double following the German women's team triumph against Sweden on Friday. Brazil maintained the upper hand in extra time but continued to be wasteful in front of goal - Felipe Anderson firing straight at Horn after being sent though one-on-one by the excellent Neymar. But that profligacy soon became a distant memory. After Petersen became the first player to miss a spot-kick, Neymar calmly slotted home to spark wild celebrations in the stands and an outpouring of emotion from the players on the pitch. Rafinha celebrates with the fans (Photo: Getty Images/Lars Baron) In their 13th Olympic Games football campaign, having been beaten finalists three times (including at London 2012) and bronze medallists twice, Brazil had finally got their hands on the one major international honour that has eluded them. If not revenge for Belo Horizonte, an undeniable wave of catharsis swept through the Maracana at the final whistle. Laying the ghosts of "7-1" will be a long process, but this was a moment when Brazilian football fans could again have pride in their beloved national team.

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