RIO DE JANEIRO: Neymar sent Brazil into ecstasy as he clinched Olympic football gold and Mo Farah sealed a rare distance double-double in a pulsating final evening of track action in Rio on Saturday. Neymar swept home a brilliant free-kick and scored a trademark stutter-run penalty to win a shootout against Germany as the hosts headed towards yesterday’s closing ceremony on a high. Later, Britain’s Farah headlined the last night of track and field as he won a thrilling 5,000m race to earn the first consecutive 5,000m-10,000m doubles in 40 years.
Millions of Brazilians were glued to the men’s football and celebrations were long and loud when the five-time world champions grabbed their first Olympic title at the Maracana stadium. Victory, 5-4 on penalties after the scores were locked at 1-1 after extra time, left Neymar and his teammates sobbing uncontrollably as they erased the nightmare of Brazil’s 7-1 World Cup semifinal defeat to Germany two years ago.
It was a fairytale finish for Neymar, who missed the 2014 defeat with a back injury and faced heavy criticism for his performances early in the Olympic competition. “This is one of the best things that has happened in my life,” said the Barcelona star who promptly stepped down as captain. “Now (the critics will) have to swallow what they said.”
Yesterday, after losing the last two finals, Brazil reclaimed the Olympic men’s volleyball gold medal with a 3-0 victory over Italy at the Maracazinho in Rio yesterday. Watched on by Neymar, the volleyball team made it a golden double following the Selecao’s penalty shootout victory over Germany in the next door Maracana on Saturday night.
Farah was pushed hard in the 5,000m before he kicked home in the final straight to become the first man since Finnish great Lasse Viren in 1976 to retain two Olympic distance titles. “This is the most satisfying win of the four, it is incredible,” said the 33-year-old Somali-born Londoner. – AFP (See Page 20)