Last night Brazil secured its first ever Olympic soccer gold medal in an epic game that ended with a successful Neymar penalty kick. The whole scene was seemingly emotional enough to cause the Barcelona star to step down from his role as captain for the national team.
The game left Neymar visibly exhausted at the end of extra time, after he had scored Brazil's only goal from regulation in an absolutely pinpoint free kick in the 27th minute:
Germany would later come back to level the score in the 58th minute with its own captain—Max Meyer—sending in a beautiful shot of his own. The game then became an exhausting slugfest that eventually found its way to penalties, upon which Neymar fell to the ground in tears as the Maracanã—and the whole country—erupted in jubilation.
You could almost see Brazil's victory as a bit of retribution—Brazil has been absolutely haunted by the legacy of their most recent failures, including an early exit from this past summer's Copa America, and more important: their 2014 World Cup failure. In 2014, after whimpering out to a senior Germany side 7-1 on their home turf in the semi-finals, the game left a mark so deep, Brazilians can't refer to it as a loss—they simply call it "7 – 1″ or "7 x 1.″ This year's Olympics proved to be a nervy testing ground for the future, as the expectations for revenge were high for a faltering national team, and nearly all that pressure was put on their young star and captain Neymar.
"I don't take it as a pressure, it is you (the press) who say it," Neymar clarified to TV Globo in the post-match, after not speaking to the majority of the media in the mixed zone or the press conference. But then what Neymar declared was fairly unusual.
"But today, as a champion, I am giving (up) the captain's armband," Neymar said. "I was glad to receive it, I have honored it, but today I am (leaving it). [Brazil's head coach] Tite can choose another captain."
This marks the second grandiose decision by a South American Barcelona star to step down after a high stakes game—the other being Messi's since-rescinded claim that he would not play for Argentina, following their loss to Chile in the Copa America. But given the fact that Neymar seemed the right choice to lead a young 23-and-under Olympics team (barring the three players allowed over 23) just for this moment, and his willingness to step away from the spotlight, it wouldn't be surprising to see him follow through with it.