Reuters/Rio de Janeiro
Germany refused to be intimidated in the hostile cauldron of Rio’s Maracana stadium but they faced an uphill task against 11 Brazilian players roared on by 80,000 vengeful and passionate fans.
In the run-up to Saturday’s Olympic men’s soccer final, both coaches had played down the idea that it was all about Brazil exacting revenge for a 7-1 home defeat to Germany in the World Cup two years ago.
But no one had told the fans, who booed the German players throughout the 120 minutes of play and the tense penalty shootout in which Nils Petersen’s miss set up Neymar to score the winning spot kick for Brazil.
“It is very difficult,” Petersen told Reuters TV at an after-match celebration for the German team. “When there are 80,000 people against you it’s not nice.
“If we had won the penalty shootout in the end it would all have been fine, it would have been a nice feeling, we unfortunately had to bow down to the Brazilian audience. “At first there is always some pain when you have the chance to win gold. Now we have to accept it and just take it.
“It hurts a bit but we are still proud about the medal.”
Coach Horst Hrubesch said he had steeled his players for the reception they would receive by trying to harness the energy of the crowd.
“I said to my players before the game: this is your stadium, go out and you’ll see 80,000 people to welcome you,” he said.
“You can turn it around and make something positive out it, or you cave in and lose your nerve and then you can’t play football.”
And play they did.
Apart from the Max Meyer goal that cancelled out Neymar’s free kick, they hit the bar three times in the first half, and Julian Brandt posed a repeated threat in attack, including with an extra-time volley attempt.
Underlining their fighting spirit, Meyer staged a demonstrative celebration in the corner, right in front of a sea of yellow-shirted Brazil fans, after slotting in his goal from the edge of the box.
‘Had our chances’
In the end it was not quite enough, but the Germans sportingly picked themselves up and walked around the stadium after the match to applaud the fans.
“We had our chances, we could have scored at least three times. I think we could have won but there’s a lot of luck with penalties. You have to be a good loser too,” defender Lukas Klostermann said.
Hrubesch said it was not a bitter moment. “Actually we have to say that if someone had told us this beforehand, then we would have gone with it, and we would have gone along with everything and done it just like that,” he said.
“But at the end of the day I must also say that if you look at today’s game and the way we have played the entire tournament, I don’t know what I can say about this team.
“It was amazing.”
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