For the last 66 years, Maracana had been the name of the biggest tragedy of Brazilian football. Despite its rich history, the spiritual home of football was best known worldwide for one of Brazil's most painful defeats, a 2-1 reverse against Uruguay in the final of the 1950 World Cup.
For 66 years, the spectre of that defeat had haunted Brazilian football. That defeat had attained such a notorious status in the country's football folklore that even people of generations born after 1950 talk of it in a way as if they were there at the Maracana on that fateful day. It seemed like the scar of that defeat would never heal.
But on Saturday night, a young Brazil team led by Neymar achieved something which might go some way in finally healing that scar. The Young Selecaos beat Germany 6-5 in tie-breaker of a pulsating final of the Olympics, ending the five-time world champions' long wait for that one elusive title.
The win was also significant due to the fact that it was played with the memory of Brazil's 7-1 defeat to Germany very much alive. And then there was the obvious pressure of the passionate and success-starved home fans, who would not be satisfied with anything less than a win.
The same crowd that had jeered the team off the pitch after two consecutive 0-0 draws in group stages were in their numbers and on top of their voice to get behind the Young Selecaos at the Maracana on Saturday, thanks to the form they picked up towards the middle of this competition. And they were treated to a fest of nerve-wracking football which culminated in the hosts claiming the title.
"You see, we have been to many of the events of this Olympics to support our athletes and teams. We even didn't know some of the names of the medal winners before these Games," a university student, who went with his friends, said after the match. "But with football it's different. The footballers are our biggest stars and a football title is worth a lot more than the others."
The win was sealed after a nerve-wracking tiebreak where both sides scored four each before Brazil goalkeeper Weverton blocked Nils Peterson's effort, with captain Neymar tucking home the decisive spot-kick, bringing joy to 80,000 at the stadium and millions around the country. Neymar had earlier given the hosts the lead with a sumptuous free-kick in the 26th minute, but a fine strike by his German counterpart Maximilian Meyer got things level again and that is how it stayed before the game rolled into the drama of the tiebreak.
It was redemption for the Brazil captain too. Having been jeered by the crowd and blasted by the media, the Barcelona frontman turned Brazil's fortune in this competition with timely goals in the quarterfinal and the semifinal before playing the key role in Saturday's final.
The 24-year-old Barcelona forward, who had avoided media all through the competition, told the host broadcaster that it was his ultimate dream to lead the team at home and win the title. "This is one of the best things that have happened in my life. That's it. Now they'll (the critics) have to swallow me [take back their words]," Neymar said.
Brazil coach Rogeiro Micale summed up the mood of the people. "Yes, I am sure this will give reason for pride and confidence in the Brazilian people in the national team," the Brazil coach said at the post-final press conference. "We knew there was huge responsibility on the Olympic team because of how important football is to the country. Now we can look to the future with more confidence, more proud. Brazilian football is not dead. We have great potential and hope to achieve great things in future."