Neymar crowned Samba King as hosts end on a high

Sunday, August 21, 2016

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RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil (AFP) — 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.


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 1-7 World Cup semi-final defeat to Germany two years ago.


It was a fairy-tale 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."


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".


"The Brazilians altogether were great hosts and really united behind these Games... They turned this great competition into a party for everybody," said Bach.


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.

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