For many football fans, the mere mention of penalty shoot-outs and Germany instantly conjures up memories of great matches of the past, from the quarter-final against Argentina at the 2006 FIFA World Cup™ or the nerve-shredding showdown with Italy in the last eight of UEFA EURO 2016. In both cases it was the Germans who came out on top.
As Saturday evening turned into night, it became clear that spot-kicks would also be needed to settle the final of the Men’s Olympic Football Tournament Rio 2016 between Germany and Brazil. This time Lady Luck sided with the Olympic hosts, who celebrated wildly on the hallowed turf of the legendary Maracana stadium.
Even the sterling efforts of goalkeeper Timo Horn could not prevent Germany from having to settle for silver. After his Brazilian counterpart Weverton saved Nils Petersen’s penalty, it was down to Neymar to convert the final kick for the home side. He stepped up and fired an unstoppable shot into the net.
“At first we were overcome by sadness as we got so close to gold,” Horn explained after the defeat in an exclusive interview with FIFA.com. “If we had lost earlier in the match, it would have been a little different.
“Penalty shootouts are always a matter of luck. That’s the first set of penalties I’ve ever lost in my career so far, so obviously that makes it twice as tough to take. Nevertheless, when you look back over the past few days and realise what we’ve achieved, it really is sensational. The joy of winning silver trumps everything.”
The Maracana legend and magical memories
The likeable goalkeeper will not forget his Maracana experience in a hurry. A remarkable 63,707 fans packed into the arena to watch their team win the title, creating a unique atmosphere.
“As a player, you only get the chance to play at the Maracana in a final against Brazil once in a lifetime; we wanted to enjoy it and that’s what we did,” said Horn. ”Of course we knew the whole stadium would be rooting against us. It was particularly noticeable during the penalties, which naturally put huge pressure on our takers, but they did a great job nonetheless. We were a little unlucky to lose today, but all in all we’re happy with silver.”
The 23-year-old, who features between the posts for Cologne in the Bundesliga, will be travelling home with not only a medal but also many wonderful moments to look back on. “We’re so glad to have been able to stay in the Olympic Village for another two or three days. We’ve had a unique experience.” It is an experience no male German footballer has experienced since players such as Thomas Hassler, Karl-Heinz Riedle and Jurgen Klinsmann won bronze at Seoul 1988.
'We’re very proud to have been able to call him our coach'
“Taking part in the Olympic Games is obviously a once-in-a-lifetime experience, and a chance you very rarely get as a footballer,” Horn said. “To go on and win a medal that you can show to your children and grandchildren one day is something to be very proud of. That’s why the joy of winning silver and finishing in second place has taken over, despite the disappointment we felt at first.”
The result also enabled Germany’s youngsters to give their coach a fitting send-off. Just like Silvia Neid in the women’s final on Friday, Saturday evening marked the end of an era for Horst Hrubesch as he steps down from his role nurturing the country’s brightest young talents.
“Horst Hrubesch has been my coach for more than four years now, so he has overseen more of my youth development than any other DFB [German Football Association] coach; I’ve learned an unbelievable amount from him,” said Horn of his time with the 64-year-old.
“He was a top player during his playing career and continued that success as a coach. He won several titles and is a living legend in my eyes. We’re delighted to have been able to end his career with a silver medal,” the goalkeeper continued. “He even had tears in his eyes in the dressing room; it was a very emotional moment. We’re very proud to have been able to call him our coach.”