Brazil nail elusive football gold

Brazil nail elusive football gold

Skipper Neymar inspires Selecao to victory in shoot-out against Germany

Brazil nail elusive football gold

The Ghost of Maracana was finally buried on Saturday.

It was 66 years ago at this iconic stadium that Brazil suffered their most painful defeat in football, losing to Uruguay in the title-deciding match of the 1950 World Cup.

That loss has haunted them ever since. Maracanazo, as it came to be known, bound the venue to that heart-breaking defeat. Brazil have never won a championship at this venue and they had never won an Olympic gold in football.

Both the jinxes were broken on Saturday as the home team, spearheaded by their lone superstar Neymar, defeated Germany 5-4 in penalty shootout after the regulation period had ended 1-1.

Neymar struck a spectacular free-kick to put his team ahead in the first half and after the Germans had pushed the game into the shootout, the Brazilian captain slotted home the winning penalty to trigger wild celebrations inside and outside the Maracana.

Fireworks lit up the Rio night as fans sang and danced away. This was the balm Brazil had been waiting for, the one gold they wanted above everything else. Neymar and his men had delivered what the country wanted.

“The only thing on my mind was I had to do this,” said a tearful Neymar. “I can’t describe my feelings. I have fulfilled my dream and to have done it in my country makes me very proud.”

All evening, the stadium had been baying for revenge against the team that mauled them 7-1 in the World Cup semifinal two years ago. Hours before kick-off, the fans had begun to make a beeline towards Maracana. Yellow was the colour of the evening and the air was thick with anticipation. At street corners, restaurants and bars, there was only one point up for discussion.

Inside the Maracana, which was built for the 1950 World Cup, Germany felt the full heat of Brazil’s hurt pride. Boos greeted the world champions as they entered the ground; their every attack was jeered; every moment they were reminded they were in unfriendly territory.

Brazil, riding the crest of the yellow wave, were given the perfect lift when Neymar fired in that brilliant freekick into the left corner of the goal in the 26th minute, beating German goalkeeper Timo Horn from 25 yards out.

Germany, known for their fighting displays, shut out the crowd and attacked, with Julian Brandt leading the way. The Brazilian defence looked rickety but they held on.

They were extremely lucky to survive when Brandt and Sven Bender found the crossbar. The fans held their breath as another Brandt shot from outside the area was well saved by goalkeeper Weverton.

Brazil finally cracked in the 59th minute. A centre from Jeremy Toljan on the right found Maximillan Meyer in the middle and the German captain hit the mark with precision.

Brazil then pressed in a wave of attacks but could not find the goal against a well-organised German defence. And as the match slipped into extra time, the fans feared the worst. The shootout rolled on with no misses till the fifth kick when Nils Petersen’s shot was superbly saved by Weverton, diving to his right. Neymar then stepped up. Neymar had to do it and Neymar did it.

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