With two remarkable goals against Germany Neymar or, more properly, Neymar da Silva a Santos Jr., proved not only that he is one of the best players of the world but also that Brazil has the best Olympic team. Although the Brazilian goalkeeper Weverton was able to stop Nils Petersen’s fifth shot, the crowning moment of the game was when Neymar when, with an unstoppable shot, assured the golden medal for Brazil . It was the greatest achievement in Neymar’s remarkable career.
When he was 19 years old Neymar had won the 2011 South American Footballer of the year award, a feat he repeated in 2012. In 2011, Neymar won the FIFA Puskás Award for Goal of the Year, and in 2015, he came third for the FIFA Ballon d’Or behind Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo. While Pelé has called Neymar “an excellent player”, both Ronaldo and Messi predicted that he will be the best in the world.
At the 2014 FIFA World Cup, Neymar scored four goals before he suffered a serious back injury and missed the rest of the tournament. It was one of the saddest days for all Brazilians, who had placed their greatest hopes on him for winning the tournament. He was, however, named in the World Cup All Star XI, and received the Bronze Boot as the tournament’s third top goalscorer.
In 2012 and 2013, SportsPro Magazine named him the most remarkable athlete in the world and in December 2015 he was ranked by The Guardian as the third best player in the world. Neymar still has a long road of success ahead of him. Brazilian legend Romário said in 2014, “I think because of his age, thought he still has others to topple, Neymar will become top goalscorer in Brazil ‘s history, surpassing Pelé. It wouldn’t hurt if he leapfrogged me in the list. I left my mark on history and now it’s his turn.”
When assessing Neymar’s dribbling skills and playmaking creativity, many people compare him with his legendary compatriot Ronaldinho. His playing style has been characterized as both “electric” and “explosive” being able to score equally well with both feet. He is an accurate free-kick and penalty taker, as he showed in the final Olympic match against Germany .
When Neymar shot a free kick in the match against Germany all Brazilians practically held their breaths. There was barely enough room for the ball to go through. Neymar thought for a couple of seconds, used his eyes as a ruler, and sent the ball to the only place that the Timo Horn, the German goalkeeper, couldn’t reach. The Maracaná stadium burst in celebration with fans chanting for Neymar and for Brazil .
Although Brazil has won the World Cup five times, it had never before won the Olympic Games, where only players age 23 and under can play, with only three exceptions (Neymar is 24-years-old). Neymar scored the fastest goal in the Olympic Games’ history, just 15 seconds since the start of the game against Honduras , which Brazil won 6–0.
His feat prompted Brazil ‘s Olympic coach Rogerio Micale to call him, admiringly, as a “monster”. “He is the difference maker in our group in the good sense. Neymar deserves our gratitude because he pushes Brazil to a higher level,” said Micale.
Germany , however, was able to score during the second half, placing extraordinary psychological pressure on the young Brazilian players. Although some among the Brazilian layers were physically exhausted, Neymar seemed tireless. The end of the game in a draw meant the winner of the game had to be decided on penalty kicks.
When the Brazilian goalkeeper Weverton Pererira da Silva, simply known as Weverton, stopped the fifth final German shot all the eyes—and the prayers—in the Maracaná stadium were on Neymar. If he failed, the first team to score on additional shots would decide the winner. The stadium was calm as a cemetery. Neymar didn’t disappoint the Brazilian fans and with a strong shot he made Brazil the winner. The best team had won.
David Konzevik, a noted Argentine economist and a former soccer player said, “At times, Brazilian players seem to be ballet dancers”. For Brazilians, it was a revenge for the crushing 7–1 defeat they had suffered against Germany in the last World Cup. Now Brazilians, albeit for a short time, can forget the critical political and economic problems besieging their country and enjoy a victory with the flavor of glory.
Dr. Cesar Chelala is a New York writer and sports fan.