Confederations Cup Final: In-Depth Preview For Brazil vs. Spain
Where: Estadio do Maracana in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
When: Sunday, June 30 at 6 p.m. ET
Watch: ESPN (USA), BBC (UK)
Live Stream: ESPN3.com (USA), BBC iPlayer (UK)
For the first time at the 2013 Confederations Cup, Brazil will enter the world-famous Maracana stadium on Sunday night to take on reigning World and European champions Spain.
The Selecao will do so with the knowledge that they now have nothing to lose and everything to gain from the final, having already far exceeded initial pre-tournament expectations.
"We achieved our goal of getting to the final and giving the players a sense of unity and the fans an idea that we have a good team that can get to the final of the World Cup," Scolari said of his team's performance on Friday, via BBC.
Having entered the competition under a cloud, Brazil believes in their national side once more. Despite all the problems seen off the pitch, the yellow shirt has become a symbol of joy for the people once more.
Had they been able to choose their opponents, though, it is unlikely they would have ever chosen to face the might of Spain.
La Roja have been an all-conquering force in World Football for the past five years, with the 2009 Confederations Cup the one blot on their copybook in that time. Coincidentally, it was Brazil who clinched a third title on that occasion.
The motivation is there, then, for the team that has won virtually everything in the game. For many of the Spanish side, the Confederations Cup is the only trophy missing from their extensive collection.
As a fixture, pitting the hosts against the favourites, it could not get any bigger, and many will hope for a rematch at the same stage next Summer.
Among those excited by the prospect is Spanish goalkeeper Iker Casillas, who told reporters "The whole world wanted to see a Brazil-Spain final, and in the end the two teams who are there are the ones who deserve it.
"It's basically a curtain-raiser for the World Cup (next year), and everyone who loves football will agree that it should be a great match" he said, via Sambafoot.
The fixture should be a great clash for the neutral, as both sides seek to prove their point ahead of World Cup 2014. The stage is set, and now one of the two sides must lay down a marker ahead of next Summer's main event. Both teams, though, will be among the forerunners next year.
Brazil: Julio Cesar, Dani Alves, Thiago Silva, David Luiz, Marcelo, Luiz Gustavo, Paulinho, Oscar, Hulk, Neymar and Fred.
Spain: Casillas, Arbeloa, Ramos, Pique, Alba; Xavi, Busquets, Iniesta, Pedro, Mata and Torres.
Brazil: Five wins. (WWWWW)
Spain: Five wins. (WWWWW)
Hulk (Brazil)— If Brazil are to stand any chance of achieving success on Sunday night, they will need to negate the potential impact of Barcelona full-back Jordi Alba. That task will fall upon the shoulders of right-sided attacking midfielder Hulk.
The Zenit forward has not had a great tournament, with his place in the side cause for continued speculation in the Brazilian media. He has shown for his club sides, though, that he can be a potential match-winner.
The full-backs are an integral part of Spain's tactical setup, with Alba in particular acting as an out-ball for the side's central midfielders. It has been shown at club level, and by Italy in the semifinal, that Spain can be hurt if their full-backs are pinned back.
Hulk, therefore, must work hard to press Alba early and to exploit the space in behind the defender. The Barcelona man is not always the best positionally, and Hulk can exploit that. Physically, he should also be able to overpower his opponent, should it come to a battle of strength.
Alba has the potential to be a major player in a Spain win. Hulk, though, has the ability to hinder his opponent's impact, but must play better than he has this tournament.
Alvaro Arbeloa (Spain)— Working on similar lines to the selection of Hulk as one to watch, Spain right-back Alvaro Arbeloa also has a key job to do for his side—shackle Brazil star Neymar.
At times, Arbeloa can look out of place among what is a tremendous Spain side. He sometimes lacks the composure on the ball of some of his teammates, and is prone to conceding cheap free-kicks. He cannot, though, afford to do so against Brazil.
With Spain likely to have much of the ball, it is likely that most of Arbeloa's work will come defending against Brazilian counter attacks. That, though, is exactly where the likes of Neymar and Oscar can be at their most dangerous.
Brazil will look to exploit the Real Madrid man and his tendency to overcommit. As Neymar has shown on many occasions, he has an ability to "draw a foul"—something Arbeloa must watch for.
When playing well, Arbeloa is a very good right-back. He must prove on Sunday, though, that he is capable of marking one of world football's elite talents in a one-on-one situation.
Brazil would become the first team to win three successive Confederations Cup titles should they win. They currently lie level with France, who won back-to-back titles in 2001 and 2003.
Spain, meanwhile, are unbeaten in 29 competitive games (W24, D5) since their 1-0 defeat to Switzerland at the 2010 World Cup.
Brazil edge the head-to-head between the two sides, having won on four of eight occasions. Spain have managed two wins, while there have been two draws.
It is hard to bet against Spain given their outstanding record in recent years, having lost just two competitive fixtures since 2006. That said, much will also depend on how Brazil can handle the atmosphere at the Maracana.
If Brazil can harness the fans' support and shock Spain early on, the possibility then opens up for an unexpected result. The longer the game remains scoreless, though, the more the fixture will play into the hands of La Roja. Brazil 0-2 Spain.
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