Brazil learns revenge is best served gold
NERVES were fraying on Rio streets before kickoff of August 20’s Olympic men’s soccer gold medal game between Brazil and Germany. That was not only because the hosts have never won an Olympic football title despite having won five World Cups. It was because Brazil needed to erase bitter memories of the ‘’Sete à Um” – or “Seven One” – the crushing 7-1 defeat Germany dealt Brazil in the 2014 World Cup semifinals, also hosted by Brazil.
Brazil was supposed to win that game and then capture a sixth World Cup. Since then the crushing humiliation has taken on a historical significance for this footballmad nation of 200 million people, as if it were a lost battle in a war, not a football match.
That’s how seriously Brazilians take football.
“It was so fatal. We still haven’t recovered,” said Lorena Coutinho, 51, a guest-house owner, donning a tracksuit top in the Brazil colours and crammed into a neighborhood bar in Rio’s colonial Santa Teresa neighborhood called the Armazem São Thiago. This tiled-floor, streetcorner saloon, known by locals as the Bar do Gomez, was showing the game on a big screen.
The phrase “Sete à Um” has entered the national lexicon and is used to refer to anything from poor economic performances to making jokes. Some argue it represents a point at which Brazil realised it was going to have to learn a few lessons from the better-organised and -prepared German team instead of relying on the traditional last-minute creativity and improvisation to get by.
This was a fluid, fast game from the start. But the tension was palpable. A woman tweeting as Ananda shared comments from Brazilians calling on Jesus Christ and My Loved Father as the tension rose.
“Nobody is an atheist in the Brazil v Germany game,” she wrote.
Olympic football rules mean that each team is composed of under-23 players plus three exceptions – which meant Neymar, the Brazilian attacker who plays professionally alongside Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez for Barcelona, was on the team. He sat out that 2014 semifinal because of injury – and Brazil’s loss was blamed in part on his absence.
Neymar scored the first goal in this weekend’s final on a 30-yard free kick, curling in an elegant arc of a shot just below the crossbar. The Bar do Gomez erupted in cheers. “Woo-hooooh!” Coutinho yelled with a huge grin. Neymar celebrated with Usain Bolt’s lightning-bolt salute. Bolt himself was in the Maracana crowd.
Behind the bar at Gomez, one of the kitchen staff had pushed half of his body through the serving hatch to watch. Brazil goalie Weverton made a low, diving save after 31 minutes. Germany hit the bar with a spinning header. The half ended with Brazil ahead. The crowd, which had spread onto the street outside, ordered more beers and exhaled.
After Brazil’s men’s team started their Olympic campaign badly, a better performance by the women’s team stole their thunder – and jokes rebounded about how veteran striker Marta delivering what Neymar was failing to do. But the women’s team failed to make the final and lost the bronze-medal game to Canada. And Brazilian men began to crow.
“If the men’s team win the gold medal, it’s going to be really crazy, because everyone was putting faith in the female team,” tweeted a woman called Kell.
The celebrations did not last. Germany’s Max Meyer sliced in a goal from the edge of the box. And a sense of nervousness took over the bar as revenge slipped away.
“I hope it doesn’t go to penalties,” said Kerry Nicholas, 54, a British tourist who said she was “definitely supporting Brazil”.
To Brazil’s agony, it did. Coutinho was crunched up with tension. “I need a doctor!” she cried, on her way to the bathroom.
When Brazil scored its first penalty kick, the bar broke into a chant of “Temer Out!” - the message aimed at Brazil’s unpopular interim President Michel Temer, who has replaced president Dilma Rousseff while she faces impeachment. The final shot fell to Neymar, as he stepped up for the last penalty kick, when a goal would mean gold. He ran toward the ball, pulled back, shot – and scored. Uproar. Screams. Shouts. Roars. And perhaps a sigh of relief for organisers and Brazilian politicians, because these Olympics have not enjoyed widespread support and a gold medal for Brazil’s favorite sport gives them welcome shine.
But the shine likely won’t lighten the low appeal of Brazil’s interim president. The Bar do Gomez broke out into yet another chant. And it wasn’t for Neymar. It was “Temer out!” – The Washington Post
Following the introduction of those rules, Semenya’s times slipped, with many assuming she was taking medication to keep her testosterone levels within acceptable limits.
She was still good enough to take silver behind Savinova in London however. The Russian is facing a lifetime ban from the sport after evidence implicating her in doping.
And when the Court of Arbitration for Sport ruled the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) restrictions illegal, Semenya was free to compete in her natural state.
Hours before Saturday’s final, IAAF chief Sebastian Coe indicated the world body would seek to revisit the issue in future.
Semenya however would not be drawn on the issue.
“Tonight is all about performances,” she said. “We’re not here to talk about the IAAF. We’re not here to talk about speculations.
“We’re here to talk about the 800m that we ran today.”
Semenya never looked in trouble in Saturday’s final, biding her time after a 57.59sec opening lap.
Niyonsaba hit the front with around 300m to go but Semenya was always within striking distance.
With 150m left she made her move, calmly accelerating clear to take the lead. –
Brazil’s forward Neymar scores the winning goal past Germany’s goalkeeper Timo Horn.