Spain and Brazil are set to close the Confederations Cup in Sunday’s showpiece final in the iconic Estadio do Maracana, Rio de Janeiro.
Leonardo Bonucci’s ill-placed penalty sent the Spanish to the Confederations Cup Final at the expense of Italy. There they will meet the hosts, bubbling after their late win against a defiant Uruguay side.
The clash is the perfect headline bout for a tournament that has been thoroughly entertaining and has provided viewers with a terrific taste for next summer’s World Cup.
The two are arguably the finest international sides in world football at the moment, although the pair struggled in their semi-finals.
Spain rarely looked comfortable against Italy and were lucky to sneak through on penalties. Brazil, meanwhile, did well to overcome a rugged Uruguay side and book their place in the tournament finale.
While the likes of Nigeria and Italy have suffered with injuries during the tournament, Brazil and Spain have escaped fairly unscathed and thus will be in a position to field strong sides.
Spain are perhaps at a disadvantage, having played their semi-final a day later than Brazil and having endured a grueling extra time and penalty shoot-out against rivals Italy.
The Spaniards also arrive at the final on the back of countless busy summers and a long European league season—their famous high-intensity pressing game will be tested to the limit.
Felipe Scolari will have a few key decisions to make ahead of the final, such as the identity of key attacking players and the nuances of his central midfield—either way, he is likely to have some impact stars available from the bench.
Brazil starting lineup (4-2-3-1): Julio Cesar; Marcelo, Thiago Silva, David Luiz, Dani Alves; Luiz Gustavo, Paulinho; Hulk, Neymar, Oscar; Fred
Spain starting lineup (4-3-3): Iker Casillas; Jordi Alba, Gerard Piqué, Sergio Ramos, Alvaro Arbeloa; Sergio Busquets, Xavi Hernández, Andrés Iniesta; Pedro Rodriguez, Fernando Torres, David Silva.
This is the game that almost everyone—excluding, obviously, Uruguay and Italy fans, hoped for. It pits arguably the world’s two finest national sides together and is a contest laced with star power.
At the World Cup next year Spain will enter as holders and Brazil will enjoy home advantage as hosts. These two will surely be the favourites heading into the competition and will look to lay down a marker in this potential final precursor.
Spain are currently on a record-breaking 29-match unbeaten run, while Brazil have an exceptional record when playing within their national borders.
It could well be the case of the irresistible force meeting the immovable object.
It’s hard not to anticipate goals, as both sides have demonstrated frailties and strengths in the tournament thus far.
Under Vincente Del Bosque, this Spanish side have learned how to vanquish all before them, and even though all great teams eventually run out of steam, La Roja still have a powerful hold over almost every match they compete in.
Any doubts that grew about their approach and execution during Euro 2012 were silenced with their emphatic 4-0 victory over Italy in the final.
Scolari has worked hard to answer the questions that have surrounded Brazil over the last year or two, and this tournament is proving to be a boon for both coach and players. In Neymar he possesses possibly the tournament’s most in-form individual and a player who has conjured the extraordinary from the mundane over the last few weeks.
The game looks primed to provide sublime closure to an engrossing tournament.