Sat Sep 23 16:37:33 SAST 2017

Brazil's day to remember

By Reuters | 2016-08-22 08:46:41.0

In Brazil it will be the Olympic moment everyone remembers.

Not Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt, not American swimmer Michael Phelps, not even Thiago Braz da Silva falling from the night sky as Brazil's surprise pole vault champion.

It will be Weverton, an almost unknown goalkeeper in Brazil who was selected at the 11th hour, diving to his left to stop a penalty from Germany's Nils Petersen, a save that helped win Brazil's first Olympic soccer gold.

It might also be the moment that changed Brazil's relationship with the Games and the way it will be remembered.

"In 30 years, when people think of Rio 2016, they will think of this moment," said Paulo Kappel, 67, his eyes moist with emotion as he stood in the stands of the Maracana while chants echoed around the spiritual home of Brazilian soccer.

Around him fans embraced, cheers rang out and Olympic volunteers lay down and wept.

Olympic organisers always knew they faced a challenge in getting soccer-mad Brazil enthused about the huge spectrum of sports at the Games.

 

The national team, known as the seleção, possesses a unique ability to unify the country, even in the midst of political and economic crisis.

The Rio Games will now, in Brazil at least, be remembered as the first time they won an international tournament at home, and finally added the gold medal to their five World Cup victories.

"This was the only title Brazil was missing," said Fabio Pestana, 26, in the Maracana stands that smelt of nervous sweat and spilt beer. "It wasn't easy, but we did it."

On Saturday, however, there was much more than just a gold medal at stake - so much so that Barcelona forward Neymar, who slotted the last penalty to win the game, missed the Copa America to captain the team in his home Olympics.

Saturday was the final Brazil's World Cup never had in 2014.

 

l Nigeria won the bronze medal with a 3-2 victory over Honduras on Saturday.

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