Just after scoring the winning penalty goal that gave Brazil victory over Germany in the men’s final of the 2016 Rio Olympics, Brazilian and Barcelona striker, Neymar wept profusely.
He had inspired Brazil to redemption, revenge and glory, helping atone for the most humiliating night in the country’s footballing history by defeating nemesis Germany on penalties to finally win Olympic gold.
The wounds remain raw two years on from a 7-1 World Cup semi-final shellacking that not only saw the Selecao lose the chance of winning on home turf but their dignity.
Saturday’s gold medal match offered a shot at redemption and proved the defining moment of the hosts’ Games, with Neymar, ruled out of 2014’s meeting through injury, scoring the decisive penalty as Germany were overcome 5-4 in the shootout that followed an intense 1-1 draw at the magnificent Maracana.
Olympic football may be a sideshow for most but it has been the main event for the millions of Brazilians that, throughout the competition, have crammed around TVs and filled stadiums at an Olympics when tickets have proved hard to shift.
This encounter offered a chance to both make amends and history, with this the hosts’ grand finale despite the closing ceremony taking place at the same venue the following night.
Poster boy Neymar got Brazil off to an exceptional start, with the star turn lighting up the final with an delightful 25-yard free-kick.
The forward’s stunning effort saw the home side boast the lead after a first half in which Germany hit the crossbar three times, with captain Max Meyer eventually levelling within 15 minutes of the restart – the first goal the hosts have conceded at these Games.
The scores remained level as extra-time came and went, but Die Mannschaft would not secure silverware at the ground that witnessed both their 2014 World Cup triumph and women’s gold the previous day.
Instead, Nils Petersen’s saved penalty allowed Neymar to end the five-time World Cup winners’ long quest for men’s football gold, bringing relief to a country whose complexities and problems have been reflected at times by their Olympics.