Aug 22, 2016

    Hero no longer wants to be captain

    AFTER a rollercoaster Olympics for the hosts, it took just one kick of a ball from Brazil's poster boy Neymar to make a nation's dream come true.

    It is unusual for football to become the main event of the Games but, for the most successful nation in World Cup history, the hitherto lack of Olympic gold had become an obsession.

    Neymar finally succeeded where the likes of Ronaldo and Ronaldinho had failed when he coolly slotted into the top corner to edge a penalty shootout 5-4 against Germany at a packed Maracana on Saturday after a 1-1 draw.

    "This is one of the best things that has happened in my life," said the tearful Barcelona star.

    It was a fitting finale that after queries and criticism of Brazilian fans' penchant for treating every sport like football, the biggest crowd of the Games packed the Maracana to do what they know best.

    "Brazil could have won (gold) medals in everything but if it hadn't been in football, then nothing would have counted," said fan Leila Lopes da Silva, 70, summarising the mood of a jubilant nation.

    Neymar's spot-kick also exorcised some of the demons that have dogged Brazilian football since Germany sent them packing from the World Cup with a humiliating 7-1 thrashing just two years ago.

    "This phase now has passed. We can look forward to the future more confident and more proud. Brazilian football is not dead," said Brazil coach Rogerio Micale.

    In the midst of Saturday's celebrations, Neymar announced he no longer wants to captain the national team, seemingly scarred by the backlash he suffered at the start of the tournament.

    However, for now, he has delivered the gold a host nation in need of a hero most desired.