With a kiss of the ball and an unforgettable kick, Brazil's biggest soccer star Neymar gave the Olympic host its biggest moment of the games. And not just that, he also paid a befitting tribute to star sprinter Usain Bolt soon after scoring his first goal against Germany.
Brazil won its first Olympic gold medal in soccer on Saturday with a dramatic penalty kick by Neymar to defeat Germany, sending the nation into a frenzy after a 1-1 (5-4 shootout) victory.
Before the decisive shot, Neymar picked up the ball and kissed it before placing it on the penalty spot. With a stutter step and a smooth kick, he calmly sent a shot into the top corner and fell to his knees before being mobbed by his teammates.
"That's it," Neymar said. "We made history."
Scores the first goal, hits the final penalty kick to win gold for Brazil. The Gods were smiling on Neymar tonight. #Rio2016— Sanjay Manjrekar (@sanjaymanjrekar) August 20, 2016
It was a victory that was about more than soccer for a nation that desperately needed something to celebrate. Brazil had been battered by recession, political scandal, health scares over polluted water and the Zika virus and questions over whether it could pull off hosting the Olympics.
Neymar Strikes Gold for Brazil!!! Host Country gets what's Most Important for a Soccer Religious Culture!!— Samuel L. Jackson (@SamuelLJackson) August 20, 2016
All the troubles were forgotten when Neymar's kick sailed into the net.
"Obviously this tournament had a special meaning for Brazil," Neymar said. "This is one of the happiest things that have happened to me."
Neymar pls pic.twitter.com/fYyKpJmWJX— GuSTaVauM (@GuSTaVauM_) August 21, 2016
Jubilant celebrations broke out around Rio, reminiscent of parties following the five World Cup championships won by this soccer-mad nation. Fireworks burst over the stadium, car horns blared and fans sang and tossed beer into the air.