AP Photo/Silvia Izquierdo

The party started as soon as Neymar blasted the ball into the back of the net. Brazil was the Olympic soccer champion on its home turf in the most important sport in the country.

Cheers echoed down streets and along beaches and firecrackers crackled across the city as Rio de Janeiro celebrated winning the gold medal Saturday.

At the iconic Maracana Stadium, the crowd roared as Neymar, Brazil’s biggest soccer star, scored the ultimate shot against Germany during the tense shootout.

As the team stood atop the medal podium, gold draped around their necks, tears streamed down the faces of fans the arena joined in belting out the national anthem.

"I’ve never seen anything like this. The Maracana Stadium was as if I was in a dream ... the stadium jumped and jumped and the fans cheered. It was the most incredible thing," fan Claudia Oshman said after the game.

AP Photo/Leo Correa

Outside the stadium, Brazilians packed bars and the streets to watch the game. Fireworks burst and horns blared. In Sao Salvador, a bohemian square in south Rio, fans threw beer in the air as they celebrated. 

At Copacabana beach, crowds gathered around the many kiosks to watch the match, and with the win, cheers erupted and fans yelled “campeões!” _ the Portuguese word for champions. 

AP Photo/David Goldman

The victory means more to Brazilians than a gold medal: It was their biggest moment of the Olympics. And it came two years after an embarrassing 7-1 home loss to Germany's senior team in the World Cup semifinals, which also were held in Brazil.

“Now the respect is back. Brazil needed to win again so it got respect here and abroad again. We were sick of losing. Now we can aim high again,” said Guilherme Junior, a 47-year-old public worker.