Neymer returns colour and hunger to Brazil with Olympic victory

Moments after Neymar guided home the winning penalty of the men's football Olympic final, a delighted Brazilian was seen waving a replica of the World Cup trophy on the big screens of the Maracana Stadium.

There is a lot of football to be played before the 2018 World Cup in Russia and, for now, the Selecao will have to be content with a set of Olympic gold medals.

Perhaps more importantly, the team returned to play in the 'Brazilian way' of vivid colour after years spent in black and white following the 7-1 semi-final humbling dished out by Germany in their home World Cup of 2014.

"I'm sure this will give reason for pride and for confidence in the national team," coach Rogerio Micale said. "There was a huge responsibility on the Olympic team ... but this phase has passed.

"We can look forward to the future with confidece. Brazilian football is not dead. We can do great things in the future."

Even in matches played after sun-down, the bright yellow shirts of thousands of Brazil fans in Maracana provides a shining background to the stars on the pitch.

By far the brightest of them is 24-year-old Neymar, who overcame poor form and criticism of his lifestyle in the group stages to become the hero of the final.

And soon after the final Neymar stepped down as captain of the senior side, saying new coach Tite wanted to choose his own man as skipper.

"It gives us huge pride to share the gold medals with Neymar, we know he's a reference [point] for Brazilian football," Micale said. "He's a leader in the national team, dedicated."

It was Neymar's brilliant set piece which set Brazil on the road to victory and, after Max Meyer sent the game to penalties, his cool kick which concluded it.

After collecting his gold medal, in a bandana branded "100% Jesus" he ran to the crowd and was mobbed by adoring fans, a total contrast to just last week.

“This is one of the best things that has happened in my life," he said in the aftermath. "Now they’ll (critics) have to swallow me."

Micale said criticism, such as fans scoring his name off their shirts and replacing it with female star Marta, was "part of Brazilian culture."

Minor slumps apart, it is on his shoulders that the immediate future of Brazilian football rests.

"He is just 24 years old but Neymar has won a silver and gold Olympic medal, the next step is a World Cup," Micale said. "He has all the attributes to make that happen."

Brazil have not won the World Cup since 2002 or a Copa America since 2007. Confederations Cup triumphs in 2009 and 2013, in the years preceding World Cups, are the equivalent of enjoying a starter in a posh restaurant and being kicked out before the main course.

“Germany, just you wait: your time will come," the Brazilian fans chanted during their Olympic semi-final win over Honduras and they gorged on their revenge on Saturday.

But revenge is not a filling meal and they, led by Neymar, will quickly start eyeing the main course in 2018.

In depth coverage

Neymar the Hero de Janeiro as Brazil end long wait for Olympic gold

Neymar was the toast of Brazilian football Saturday after converting the winning penalty in a shoot-out to give Brazil a first Olympic football gold as they beat Germany in the men's final at a raucous Maracana Stadium.

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Last update: Sun, 21/08/2016 - 11:29

Brazil win Olympic football gold for first time by beating Germany

Neymar converts the winning penalty in a shoot-out to give Brazil a first Olympic football gold, as they beat Germany 5-4 following a 1-1 draw in the men's final at a raucous Maracana Stadium.

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Last update: Sun, 21/08/2016 - 01:32
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