Brazil vs. Spain: Confederations Cup final preview
A dramatic 7-6 victory over Italy on penalties ensured Spain will take on Brazil in the Confederations cup final this Sunday, in what is the dream final for many neutrals.
For Brazil, this tournament was all about instilling belief in the nation’s people that they would be able to win the World Cup for an historic sixth time in their own country, and so far they have done so. The Selecao’s tournament began impressively with comfortable victories; 3-0 over Japan, and 2-0 over Mexico, with early Neymar goals being vital in giving Brazil the three points.
However, Italy would present undoubtedly the toughest challenge of the group stage, and Scolari knew there was pressure on his side to come out with a win to finish with nine points and in first place in the group. After a somewhat scrappy first halfhour, substitute Dante put Brazil ahead on the stroke of half time, before some sloppy defending from the normally reliable and powerful Thiago Silva enabled Giaccherini to level for the Azzurri. For the third game running, Neymar was the man that shone for Brazil and he scored again, while the victory was completed by two goals from Fred as it ended 4-2 to Brazil.
The semi-final win over Uruguay was massive for Brazil, as it proved to a hopeful nation that this crop of players were able to defeat their old foes. Instead of Neymar, this time it was apparent Tottenham target Paulinho that inspired the win, scoring one of the goals in the 2-1 triumph. Brazil haven’t quite reached their absolute best in the tournament so far, but what they have done is shown that they have the spirit and confidence to defeat anyone in their home country, as they will have to do this time next year in the World Cup.
A worn out Spanish squad arrived in Brazil after a long season looking to add to their incredible haul of four trophies in five years, and proved that they were as good as ever in their first game, beating Uruguay 2-1, a result that flattered their opponents, as Spain sizzled. Vicente Del Bosque made wholesale changes to the team for the game against Tahiti, but La Roja’s incredible substitutes put ten past the minnows. Two goals from Jordi Alba despite some scares were enough to see off Nigeria in the final group game, with the game finishing 3-0, Spain again looking not far off unbeatable.
A tactically enticing game followed in the semis against Italy, where Casillas was forced to make many excellent saves to keep the Italians at bay. Their talismanic forward Mario Balotelli was sorely missed as Italy struggled to finish off chances. Xavi, Fernando Torres and substitute Jesus Navas all threatened for Spain, but they couldn’t score, as the game ended 0-0 after extra time, forcing penalties. Spain won an incredible shootout 7-6 in the end, but the game showed flaws in La Roja’s defence particularly that Brazil could exploit with their creative and deadly bunch of attacking players.
Brazil (4-2-3-1) – Julio Cesar; Dani Alves, Thiago Silva, David Luiz, Marcelo, Luis Gustavo, Paulinho, Oscar, Hulk, Neymar, Fred.
Spain (4-3-3) – Casillas, Arbeloa, Ramos, Pique, Alba, Busquets, Xavi, Iniesta, Pedro, Torres, Navas.
Neymar vs. Ramos: His move to FC Barcelona a few weeks before the tournament began meant the performances of Neymar would be under a massive microscope at the confederations cup. In his four games so far, Neymar has shown many flashes of brilliance, scoring three superb goals in three group stage games. Although he perhaps hasn’t been quite as electric as he was at times for Santos, Neymar is still Brazil’s main attacking threat and the experienced Sergio Ramos will be required to keep an almost constant eye on his future El Classico opponent. Neymar has received some criticism for his apparent exaggerating of fouls, and with Ramos known to kick and trip, this encounter could be intense as well as flavoursome as Neymar will float in and around the danger zone
Paulinho vs. Iniesta: In the first half of the Italy vs. Spain semi, Iniesta was neutralized by Pirlo and Marchisio particularly as Spain were frustrated by the relative lack of the ball they had. If Brazil are to defeat Spain, and for their attacking foursome to really excel, Paulinho must do a similar job, and this means hurrying and using the ball wisely. Luis Gustavo could be used to assist in this, but Iniesta is the master of passing in difficult situations, and if he slots passes through to the likes of Navas, Pedro, Mata and Torres among others, Brazil may be in for a tough and frustrating night. A battle that could dictate who is the dominant team, and most importantly, the winner.
Torres vs. Thiago Silva: Arguably the best tackling defender in world football, Thiago Silva will need to be a nuisance at the heart of Brazil’s defence as he will almost undoubtedly endure a long and difficult night. In the PSG vs. Barcelona Champions League encounter, Silva prevented passes from Xavi and Iniesta getting in behind the PSG defence, and a similar thing will be needed, as Torres will be lurking there. The Chelsea striker did well against Italy and no way would be better to show he is ready to be the number one Spanish striker permanently, than a goal against Brazil in the Maracana.
Both teams possess an abundance of creativity in midfield especially, with Brazil’s width potentially causing problems for the perhaps defensive questionable Spaniards. However, very few teams have been able to prevent the dominance of the Spanish midfield, and Brazil are a team that excels when they are in control. Unless Neymar, Hulk or Oscar in particular are on the ball, there is only so much Brazil can do. Something will have to give in this mouthwatering clash between two genuine giants of international football.
Prediction: Brazil 1-2 Spain.