The Maracana stadium is set to be home to the finals of the competition.
After a grueling four matches in less than 15 days, the World Cup champions, Spain and hosts, Brazil go head to head. The winners of Group A and Group B have maintained a perfect record up to this point, winning all their matches. The last meeting between these two was a friendly, 14 years ago that ended 0-0. Spain have arguably been the best in the world over the past few years, having won all major trophies that they have been eligible for, over the past 5 years. Current holders, Brazil however, boast 5 World Cups which is the most won by any country. If the Confederations Cup is to be an indication of what is to happen, Brazil would already have this one wrapped up, as Spain has never even made it to the top four of this competition before. However, this year’s winner is far from a foregone conclusion, as Spain have emerged as serious contenders.
The most recent match of this tournament was Spain’s win against Italy, where the game saw a nail-biting finish, as it could only be settled with a penalty shoot-out. As the game lasted much longer than most expected, it began to raise concerns of the Spain squad being too tired to compete, with the finals less than three days away. Spain coach, Vincente Del Bosque was quick to dismiss this notion. “I’m not looking for excuses, It shouldn’t be an excuse. It’s a different match. We have 72 hours, others have a bit more, but we want to put on a good show”, said Del Bosque.
The man between the sicks for the Italy game, Iker Casillas agreed with his national coach, “We have to recover, physically speaking. We’re used to playing games on Wednesday and then on Sunday so we have no excuses not to be match fit.”
While there is no denying that La Roja ran their hearts out in their game against Italy, the Real Madrid goalkeeper was honest in admitting that he thanked his lucky stars. “The truth is it was very difficult to win. Again, we have to admit Italy played a great game. They could be up here talking about an Italy-Brazil in the final if not for a few bounces of the ball”, said Casillas. It remains to be seen if Brazil will be able to take advantage of the weaknesses seen in the Spain team.
Another man who is and has been key to his nation’s success thus far, is Neymar Junior. The latest Barcelona signing scored a goal in every group match that Brazil played in this tournament. Even in the latest match scoresheet, on which he did not feature, he still managed to play a big part of both goals that was scored. While critics have pointed to his play-acting, that seems to be his only negative trait. Brazil will be looking to Neymar once again, as a source of inspiration and goals, as they aim to win. The man himself knows how much of a classic it will be. “We will be playing for our families, our friends, but above all for the Brazilian nation. We are ready for what will be an historic match,” Neymar said. It will be a great match. Both teams are out to create history.”
Yes, Neymar is excited, but he is not disillusioned. The 21-year old feels that Spain needs to be acknowledged as huge contenders.“They (Spain) are the best side in the world and are favourites, I respect and admire Spain a lot, but our football is nice on the field and we’re hopeful and trust one another to play a perfect match on Sunday. I will just go out there and do what I always do to help my team – take free kicks, spray passes around, score goals. I want to help the team.”
Brazil’s technical director, Carlos Alberto Parreira echoed Neymar’s thoughts. “It is now the time to end the era of Spain. This is the game that everyone hoped for, but the fans would not have chosen this opponent for the final,” said Parreira. Understandably refusing to play down the Selecao’s opponents, the man who coached Brazil to 1994 World Cup win, stays realistic and takes heart from Spain’s latest game. He said, “We know that Italy had a wonderful first half against Spain, showing that with will, determination and intelligence, it is possible to beat Spain.”
From all that has been said thus far, it can be seen that both nations have no fear, but only respect for each other. The stakes are high for both sides. Brazil won the FIFA Confederations Cup in 2005 and 2009, winning tonight will give them an unprecedented consecutive hat-trick of the title. Spain will be looking to complete the set of International trophies, having won the 2010 World Cup, Euro 2008 and Euro 2012.
With Paulinho injury in Brazil’s own game against Italy, there seems to be a rather similar line-up for the finals, as the teams look to keep their play consistent. Will Brazil take home the trophy for the third time in a row tonight? Or will the Spanish have something to say about that? No matter the answer to those questions, tonight will be a visual treat for the neutrals, as it’s the curtain-raiser for the 2014 World Cup, next year
Brazil: Julio Cesar, Dani Alves, Thiago Silva, David Luiz, Marcelo, Luiz Gustavo, Hernanes, Oscar, Hulk, Neymar and Fred.
Spain: Casillas, Arbeloa, Ramos, Pique, Alba; Xavi, Busquets, Iniesta, Pedro, Mata and Torres.
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