Olympics: Brazil beats Germany on penalties to win football gold

    Neymar reacts after opening the scoring in the men's Olympic football final.

    Story highlights

    • Brazil beats Germany on penalties
    • Men's final finished 1-1 after extra time
    • Neymar scored decisive spot kick

    Rio de Janeiro (CNN)In the center circle, his teammates knelt in prayer, pleading for divine intervention.

    All around him, 70,000 Brazilians inside the vast Maracana Stadium chanted his name, expecting -- no, demanding -- their nation's biggest soccer star deliver a historic success at Rio 2016.
      Neymar paused, gathering his thoughts as he stuttered towards the ball, almost grinding to a halt before stroking his penalty kick high to the left of Germany's goalkeeper Timo Horn.
        As the net rippled, Brazil celebrated. It had won Olympic soccer gold for the first time in its history.
        A night of deafening noise and frantic play inside Rio's iconic arena ended in triumph for the host nation, as a penalty shootout separated the sides after Saturday's final finished 1-1 following extra time.
        For Brazil, this was a cathartic success. This was a landmark victory over a country that had inflicted an humiliating 7-1 defeat on it two years ago, in the semifinal of its own World Cup.
        Not this time.
        If Brazilians were anxious ahead of this match, those anxieties were expressed with raucous support.
        Before the national anthems had been sung, the stadium reverberated to the sound of one man's name. "Ole, Ole, Ole, Ole, Ola, Neymar, Neymar" greeted the players as they took to the pitch.
        Brazilians can even be forgiven for singing through the German anthem -- an expression of excessive exuberance rather than hostility, perhaps.
        And they didn't have to wait long for Neymar to deliver his first telling contribution.
        In the 26th minute, the captain and No. 10 sent a wonderful, looping free-kick beyond the despairing Horn to ignite a crowd who had arrived ready to combust.
        Brazil was buoyant, but its newfound confidence was fragile. Germany hit the crossbar three times in the first half, with Sven Bender seeing his header come agonizingly close after 35 minutes.
        The previous night, in the same venue, Germany's women's team had won gold for the first time, beating Sweden in the final.
        The German men grew into their contest and grabbed a deserved equalizer just before the hour mark, as captain Max Meyer finished off a flowing move with a low shot from just inside the box.