Well worth the wait: Neymar stars as Brazil men’s soccer gets first Olympic gold

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Weverton’s save and Neymar’s decisive penalty kick gave Brazil the last of the unplucked gems, as the storied soccer nation finally added a gold medal to its trophy case.

Neymar’s 27th minute free kick gave Brazil an early lead, but Max Meyer managed to bring it all back for Germany in the second half in a 1-1 game that ended 5-4 in penalty kicks at the Maracana on Saturday.

Brazil looked the better for a goal in extra time, but it didn’t come. It doesn’t matter. One of the world’s most celebrated soccer nations had struck gold.

WATCH: Full match replay

There were fireworks a plenty in the gold medal match, as both sides had historic gold in view.

Serge Gnabry picked up a splendid diagonal ball toward the left corner, and worked two defenders before finding Julian Brandt. His curling shot was a beautiful thing and beat Weverton but clanged off the crossbar.

At the other end, Luan couldn’t make proper contact with a cut back cross from Douglas Costa, bouncing his attempt wide.

That’s when Neymar’s goal put victory on the table for Brazil, after a mazey move down the left that was cut short by a harsh tackle from Matthias Ginter.

Barcelona’s dribbling daredevil took his chance well, curling a vicious free kick that had a bit of grace, too. It hit the bar and went in to give Brazil its 1-0 lead. Was Brazil on the verge of glory?

Soon after, Sven Bender bent a header off the same woodwork for Germany. It felt more goals were inevitable, as Brazil looked for the luxury of an insurance goal and the Germans aimed to get back again.

Schalke’s Meyer was lively all match, and looking for a place to happen when he equalized in the 59th minute. Jeremy Toljan streaked down the right wing to cut back a ball toward the penalty spot that Meyer belted to the right of a diving Weverton.

Germany's Maximilian Meyer celebrates scoring his side's first goal during the final match of the men's Olympic football tournament between Brazil and Germany at Maracana stadium in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Saturday, Aug. 20, 2016. (AP Photo/Leo Correa)
(AP Photo/Leo Correa)

Was Brazil playing scared with the lead? Conceding woke the hosts up, and they had the better of both possession and chances in the next few minutes. Gabriel Jesus looked to have a shot deflected out of play for a corner by Toljan, but the referee didn’t see it that way.

It seemed there was something on when Neymar presided over a free kick from further out in the 74th minute. The captain chipped the offering over the wall on a set play, but Germany goalkeeper Timo Horn had the wherewithal to collect the ball.

Brazil camped in the Germany end for the rest of the second half, bar a counter attack or two. Still, the gold medal game was sent into extra time.

Neymar continued to shine, more as a playmaker, in the extra periods. He picked out Felipe Anderson early in the second session, but Horn came out to make the save.

It was time for PKs. The selection was quick, the crew was picked in order:

GER: Ginter scores
BRA: Renato Augusto scores
GER: Gnabry scores
BRA: Marquinhos scores
GER: Brandt scores
BRA: Rafinha scores
GER: Sule scores
BRA: Luan scores
GER: Petersen saved
BRA: Neymar scored

The pendulum swings for Brazil, who was low on momentum after the women were eliminated on the heels of a poor Copa America Centenario and an embarrassing home 7-1 World Cup ouster at the hands of Germany.