Given Brazil’s many footballing embarrassments in recent years, they really, really needed to win their first ever Olympic gold in the sport at the Olympics they are hosting. Neymar was held out of the Copa America Centenario earlier this summer just so he could be fresh for the Olympics and right about now that decision is looking like a good one.
Neymar scored four goals in the tournament, including a beautiful free kick in the final, which he celebrated with a tribute to Usain Bolt, who was in the stands for the match.
Germany equalized in the second half, sending the match to extra time and then penalties, where, once again, it was all up to Neymar, who kissed the ball and then scored the final shot to deliver the one Olympic medal Brazil craved more than any other.
It was a truly incredible turnaround for a player who was quickly becoming Brazil’s public enemy number one at the start of the tournament. His anonymous performances in the opening matches had fans chanting insults at him and bringing fake missing person posters to the stadiums.
For most human beings, to go from beloved national treasure to ridiculed villain so quickly and at such a young age (remember: Neymar is still just 24 years old!) would be something they could never recover from. But Neymar managed to do it in a matter of days.
Though Pele still leads Neymar three World Cups to none, Neymar has now done something Pele never did by winning Olympic gold. And for just one night, Brazil had a new king.