Sport Olympics Rio Olympics 2016: The moment Brazilians will remember forever

Rio Olympics 2016: The moment Brazilians will remember forever

The goal that sent a nation wild. Photo: Getty
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The 2016 Olympic Games were already Brazil’s most successful.

But as the nation worried about another clash with Germany, you got the sense that their Games success didn’t really matter if Brazil could not produce gold in the men’s football.

After all, this is Brazil, where football runs the show.

The sport is completely intertwined with national identity and self-esteem.

It’s hard to believe the five-time World Cup winners had failed to win the men’s Olympic tournament previously, but until Sunday, silver medals in 1984, 1988 and 2012 were their best efforts.

Olympic gold was the only major football honour to have eluded Brazil and on the back of two vital contributions from star player Neymar, the drought is over.

The Barcelona forward curled in a stunning first half free kick and although Germany levelled to force penalties, Neymar fittingly slotted the decisive spot-kick as Brazil won the shootout 5-4 to send the 80,000-strong crowd at the iconic Maracana stadium crazy.

“This is one of the best things that has happened in my life,” a tearful Neymar said, according to Reuters, once he could gather his composure.

Neymar was overwhelmed following his decisive goal. Photo: Getty

Seven Network commentator Jim Wilson quickly dubbed it Brazil’s ‘Cathy Freeman moment’, in reference to the Australian’s iconic 400-metre gold at the 2000 Games in Sydney.

And it was impossible to disagree.

This was Brazil’s moment of the Games – not Bolt’s or Phelps’.

There are so many layers to Brazil’s success that extend far beyond the Olympics.

Firstly, and perhaps most importantly, the win partially exorcised the demons of Brazil’s capitulation to Germany in the semi-finals at the 2014 World Cup.

Yes, most of the players were different, but Brazil still burns at that 7-1 defeat in which they found themselves 5-0 down after 29 minutes.

It ranks as one of the darkest days in the nation’s glittering football history and beating Germany in a match that mattered saw them exact a small measure of revenge.

As well as alleviating the frustration of a World Cup drought stretching back to 2002, the win also saw the country’s overbearing 66-year hoodoo at the Maracanã Stadium lifted.

This is what it means to the locals. Photo: Getty

The spectacular venue was constructed for the 1950 World Cup, where a triumph by the hosts was widely regarded as a foregone conclusion heading into the final against Uruguay.

The official attendance was an inconceivable 199,854 (although the actual figure was estimated to be about 210,000).

Brazil’s 2-1 loss to its South American rivals was viewed as a national tragedy, forever to be known as ‘Maracanazo’.

The nation descended into a spiral of shock and complete devastation.

One distressed fan reportedly committed suicide after the final whistle, while three others died from heart attacks.

Superstition has reigned virtually ever since.

The white shirts with blue collars that Brazil wore that day have never been used again, with the now-iconic yellow and green strip adopted thereafter.

The Brazilians celebrate their gold. Photo: Getty

Goalkeeper Barbosa, beaten for the winning goal, became Brazil’s perpetual outcast.

In 1993, he attempted to visit the national team’s training camp, but was turned away amid fears he would bring it bad luck.

Shortly before his death in 2000, Barbosa said: “Under Brazilian law, the maximum sentence is 30 years. But my imprisonment has been for 50 years.”

Brazil has enjoyed myriad euphoric successes on the international stage since, but glory on its own turf – with the entire world watching – remained the ultimate goal.

The 2014 World Cup was an agonising lost opportunity, but the curse is now over.

Brazil will spend the next few days, if not months, celebrating.

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