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 shoot-out against Germany as the hosts headed towards Sunday’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.
Matt Centrowitz produced the biggest upset when he beat defending champion Taoufik Makhloufi of Algeria to become America’s first 1,500m champion in more than a century.
And the United States ran away with both the men’s and women’s 4x400m relays as the curtain closed on the last full day of competition, with only 12 gold medals available on Sunday.
With 294 of 306 titles decided, the United States led the medals table with 43 golds, with Britain in surprise second place with 27 to China’s 26.
China won their third Olympic Games women’s volleyball gold with a 3-1 victory over Serbia. Only the former Soviet Union — with four golds — has been more successful in Olympics women’s volleyball than China.
South Korea’s Park In-Bee won the first women’s golf Olympic gold in 116 years by a commanding five strokes, and the USA routed Spain in the women’s basketball final.
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 team-mates sobbing uncontrollably as they erased the nightmare of Brazil’s 7-1 World Cup semi-final 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.”
– ‘A party for everybody’ –
Victory may not get Brazil into the top 10 of the Olympic medals table but it was the one gold the country wanted. Street celebrations erupted after the final whistle.
Security scares, transport problems and public apathy are among the problems that have bedevilled South America’s first Games, but Olympics chief Thomas Bach hailed the event as “iconic”.