For the first time ever, Brazil has won an Olympic gold medal in soccer. Neymar fired his country to victory over Germany on Saturday, scoring in a 1-1 draw and converting the winning penalty in a 5-4 shootout win.
The Germans got off to a fast start, with Julian Brandt hitting the crossbar in the 11th minute. But it was the Brazilians who struck first, through their captain Neymar. In the 27th minute, he drew a foul on Matthias Ginter 25 yards away from goal and stepped up to address the free kick himself. The result was perhaps the best free kick Neymar’s ever taken in a match — it hit the underside of the crossbar and bounced in, giving Timo Horn absolutely no chance to make a save.
Even if Brazil wanted to sit back and control the game after that, they probably wouldn’t have known how to do it. They continued to play the same way while Germany pushed forward, resulting in a wide-open game. And Germany was unlucky not to equalize before halftime, with Sven Bender striking the bar with a deflected shot in the 35th minute.
Germany came out with a bit more organized attack to start the second half, and it paid off within 15 minutes. Max Meyer was the man who leveled the game in the 59th minute, finishing a beautiful first-time shot from 12 yards off a low cross by Jeremy Toljan.
Brazil were the team that pushed harder for the winner in the last half-hour, and came close on a few occasions, with Neymar, Gabriel Jesus and Luan all just barely missing on solid half-chances. Germany looked threatening on the break as well, but neither team could score to avoid extra time.
In the added 30 minute period, both teams looked tired and didn’t have the energy to attack with the pace that they had for the 60-plus minutes of the game between Neymar’s opener and the regular time whistle. Despite the hosts making one big final push in the last five minutes, they couldn’t break through, and the match went to penalties.
Everyone in the first four rounds of spot kicks converted, with the fifth round ending as the dramatic decider. German striker Nils Petersen had his shot saved, setting up Neymar to score the winning penalty to win the gold medal.