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Neymar Claims Brazil’s Redemption With Olympic Gold

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Brazil has gotten redemption.

I’m not just referring to the soccer team that headed into Saturday’s Olympic final looking for gold against arch-rival Germany, but the nation as a whole.

With the game tied 1-1 at the end of two overtime periods, Brazil headed to penalties in front of a sold out Maracaná Stadium.

One strike of the ball away from gold, Neymar slowly stepped towards the penalty spot and calmly placed the ball in the center. The Brazilian prodigy took five small steps away from the ball and referee Alireza Faghani blew the whistle and Neymar slowly jogged towards the ball.

After a small stutter step, he waited for the goalkeeper to leave his feet and struck the ball into the upper right corner of the net.

Maracaná erupted.

Nearly 80,000 people on their feet and Neymar had added another notch to his legacy — Olympic gold; but most importantly, he had etched himself in the hearts of every Brazilian watching.

 

Brazil coach Rogerio Micale crowns Neymar as they celebrate. Photo Credit: Reuters

Brazil coach Rogerio Micale crowns Neymar as they celebrate a shootout win over Germany. Reuters Photo

 

It took a mere split second for a victorious grunt to turn into tears as he crumpled to the ground embracing his teammates. It was over; that haunting pain in the hearts of Brazilians after a humiliating 7-1 loss to eventual champion Germany two years ago, was now replaced with sheer joy.

A nation that cried in front of millions of people watching around the world in soccer’s biggest stage; embarrassed by the worst loss in its history, now smiled and celebrated a victory that meant more than words could muster.

One particular piece of hardware had eluded Brazil and kept it from winning the trifecta of soccer glory: a World Cup title, a Continental title, and now finally Olympic gold.

 

HOW THEY GOT THERE

The game got off to a high-paced start, with Brazil keeping possession of the ball, while Germany threatened to score with the clearer chances. Neymar put Brazil on top in the 26th minute with a curved free kick just outside of the penalty area that swerved past the outstretched arms of Germany keeper Timo Horn.

Entering the second half up a goal, Brazil looked unsure of whether to sit back and defend their lead or throw numbers forward looking for a second goal. Germany scored in the 59th minute after a sharp ground cross from outside back Jeremy Toljan that ended up in captain Max Meyer’s feet, slotting it past the keeper.

Brazil’s effort showed after the tying goal, making every tackle possible and getting the home crowd into it, basking in their cheers and chants. Defensive midfielder Renato Augusto was the engine behind it all, constantly raising his arms after every successful tackle, urging the crowd for support.

Their offensive efforts were not enough as chances from Gabriel Jesus, Luan and Neymar fell short of threatening Horn’s goal by the end of regulation.

The overtime periods saw more of the same as Germany seemed content to sit back and play the counter game to catch Brazil off guard, but ended up having to survive the onslaught of runs the Brazilians had left in their arsenal.

Penalties came and Renato Augusto, Marquinhos, Rafinha and Luan all scored confidently, with their opponents following suit. With the score leveled 4-4; goalkeeper Weverton saved the most important penalty of his young career, parrying a right-footed strike to the right corner off Germany forward Nils Petersen.

 

Weverton saves a penalty shot from Germany's Nils Petersen. EPA Photo

Brazil’s goalkeeper Weverton saves a penalty shot from Germany’s Nils Petersen. EPA Photo

 

That set the spot for Neymar, who despite immense pressure, finished the job to give Brazil its first Olympic gold in soccer history.

 

“Yesterday we were criticized,” said Neymar, referring to their poor start to the Olympic tournament. “We have replied with good football.”

Neymar takes a bite of his gold medal as Olympic tradition. AFP Photo

Neymar takes a bite of his gold medal as part of Olympic tradition. AFP Photo

 

“We had players who were extremely dedicated, professional and with great technical skill,” said Brazil coach Rogerio Micale to Reuters. “I’ll leave here with the sensation of having done my duty.”

 

Bruno Manrique is a sportswriter from San Francisco, California and has worked for Bleacher Report, Dime Magazine, AOL's Patch.com and the San Francisco Examiner. Witty commentary and a deadshot eye for detail are some of his best traits when it comes to writing.You can follow Bruno on Twitter: @thesportslede

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Juventus Fans Arrested After Clash with Police

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Wednesday’s UEFA Champions League quarter-final clash between Juventus and Ajax has already been marred by violence and controversy, before the teams even took to the pitch.

According to Ansa, citing a report from De Telegraaf, dozens of fans were reportedly arrested in Amsterdam in the hours leading up to the game.

Italian Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini (h/t Football Italia) took to Facebook live video to state that “around 120” fans had been arrested.

Per the report from De Telegraaf, fans near the Johan Cruyff Arena were “in possession of knives, clubs, pepper spray and flares.” Also, dozens of Ajax supporters were reported to have clashed with riot police in separate incidents outside the stadium and were eventually dispersed with the use of tear gas and water cannons.

The Mirror posted the following images on their Twitter page:

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Man City forward Raheem Sterling Looking to Combat Racism on the Pitch

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Manchester City forward Raheem Sterling, who spoke out last month after being subjected to taunts during England’s game in Montenegro, is looking to take his fight against racism to the pitch, saying he would rather stay on the field than let racism force him to walk off of the pitch during a match.

Sterling’s manager Pep Guardiola, stated that he would support players walking off in protest if it happened again, in a strong statement that racism is simply not acceptable.

“I think everyone are entitled to their own opinions. My mum has taught me to be comfortable in my own skin and I am,” Sterling said, according to the Manchester Evening News.

“I wouldn’t personally agree with [walking off], to win the game would hurt them even more they’re only trying to get you down. If you walk off they win, to score or win would be better.

“Everyone’s different. Everyone has their own opinion, how they deal with things emotionally and you have to support everyone.”

Sterling opened up about the racism he has faced in his life, discussing when he first expereinced racism when he moved from North London up to the north-west back in 2010.

“I don’t think trying to make a difference or making a difference, it’s about speaking what you experience. Some people might shy away from it, if more players speak up that might be better.

“It’s offensive but growing up my mum always told me I’m a wonderful black child and I know this. When I hear it, it’s nothing new. I’m happy with it. I’m confident, I’m black and I’m proud. Some people can’t take it but my mum has always told me to love who I am.

“The first time I experienced racism is when I went up north to Liverpool – in London in schools and on a day-to-day basis you’re surrounded by a diverse community. Only a few occasions growing up in the academy in Liverpool, and then mainly in the last couple of years of being a professional.”

 

 

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Birmingham City Fan Jailed for 14 Days for Punching Aston Villa Player

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27-year old Paul Mitchel, a Birmingham City fan has been jailed for 14 days after he plead guilt to assaulting Aston Villa midfielder Jack Graelish during the derby on Sunday.

Mitchell rushed the pitch and took a swing at Graelish when the player’s back was turned at Birmingham City’s St. Andrew’s stadium during the Championship match on Sunday.

Mitchell admitted to invading the pitch and has been officially banned from attending any football match in the U.K. for up to 10 years, and was also ordered to pay £350 in total fines.

Graelish made a statement in which he described how he was “shocked and scared” by the attack.

“I cannot help but feel how lucky I was in this incident,” he said (h/t ESPN). “It could have been so much worse had the supporter had some sort of weapon.”

“He cannot explain what came over himself yesterday morning,” Mitchell’s lawyer, Vaughn Whistance, said on Monday.

“His initial foolish intention was to go onto the pitch to whip up the crowd. He is certainly remorseful today. He is a man with a partner, they have a 2-year-old together and they’re expecting their second child.”

“This weekend a line has been crossed in terms of fan behaviour,” said a spokesperson for the FA.

“On Sunday we saw two separate incidents, at Birmingham City and Arsenal, of individuals entering the field of play and assaulting players.

“Not only is it an offence to enter the pitch, which could result in a club ban and criminal charges for the individual, but it also puts the safety of the players at risk.

“This is entirely unacceptable and we strongly condemn both incidents.

“We will be working with the clubs, the leagues and the police to discuss what collectively needs to be done to protect players and officials on the pitch.

“In addition, we have written to both Birmingham City and Arsenal to seek their observations to examine the security measures they had in place.”

Birmingham City apologized to Grealish and Aston Villa and banned Mitchell for life.

“Birmingham City Football Club would like to apologise to Jack Grealish and Aston Villa Football Club for an incident in Sunday afternoon’s derby match,” a club statement said.

“We deplore the behaviour of the individual who committed this act and rest assured he will be banned from St. Andrew’s for life. The club will also support any further punishment this individual may face in the eyes of the law.

“The club will be working with the relevant authorities to investigate all the circumstances and we will be reviewing our stadium safety procedures.

“What happened has no place in football or society. Jack is a Birmingham lad and regardless of club allegiance should not have been subjected to this — there are no excuses.

“Again, we apologise to Jack and all at Aston Villa Football Club.”

 

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