Confederations Cup 2013: Biggest X-Factors for Brazil

Steven CookFeatured Columnist IVJune 29, 2013

SALVADOR, BRAZIL - JUNE 22:  Hulk of Brazil competes with Mattia De Sciglio of Italy during the FIFA Confederations Cup Brazil 2013 Group A match between Italy and Brazil at Estadio Octavio Mangabeira (Arena Fonte Nova Salvador) on June 22, 2013 in Salvador, Brazil.  (Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images)
Clive Mason/Getty Images

The 2013 FIFA Confederations Cup will end with the match that many expected of Brazil vs. Spain, and for the host country, it'll come down to these X-factors.

While national teams Italy and Uruguay proved to be big tests in the semifinal round, the two favorites, and two of the biggest names that will be competing in the 2014 World Cup, surged through to the final round and will now square off for the Confederations Cup championship. 

It'll be a tough test to say the least for Brazil, who have been a big favorite in all of their matches so far. They haven't faced a test nearly as powerful as Spain, but the same thing can be said for the Spanish foes.

Let's take a look at Brazil's biggest X-factors going into the match.


Marcelo's Offensive Ability

Brazil often shows a multi-faceted offensive attack with wingers, and Marcelo is one of the main components of that surge.

The left-back holds down his defensive ground well but also is able to use his speed to get out on the wing and threaten to get past defenses. 

With speedsters like Neymar already out on the pitch, Marcelo should have the room to make a run if he chooses to do so. It would stretch out Spain's defense, allowing their talented forwards more room. Many of Spain's players know of Marcelo's ability from La Liga. 

Spain will have to be stretched out in order to be attacked, and that's just what Marcelo can bring with his movement in the attacking third.


Hulk's Ability to Do...Anything

It's already become certain that Brazil is opting to continue giving Hulk chances each and every match, but he keeps on doing nothing with his chances and playing time.

His continued playing time hasn't been going over well with the fans, whose discontent with the superhero-named striker reached a boiling point last month when Hulk was provoked to talk with about the boo birds coming out constantly.

Their ire is for good reason. The 26-year-old star left Brazil in the professional circuit at a very early age and has hardly ever played his best football while in the yellow jersey. Meanwhile, he's emerged as one of the most dangerous club footballers on the planet, and a well-paid at one at that after his latest deal with Zenit St. Petersburg in 2012.

If Brazil opts to start Hulk, or especially if they enter him in late looking for a winner, he'll have to do some work early to prove to the fans and his teammates that he's ready to contribute. 

We all have seen what Hulk is capable of on the pitch; it just hasn't translated into goalscoring as of late. Sunday will be a telling moment if he's still one of Brazil's top threats. 


Fred's Finishing

A player who rarely was counted on for scoring for Brazil has suddenly come on as a viable striker who cannot be denied goals, as Fred continues to have success in the Confederations Cup.

Fred is tied for third in goals for the tournament with three scores, and the only people who rank higher than him scored at will against Tahiti. He's been able to slip out and get to balls coming off of rebounds or just out-run defenders to balls and finishing most of his chances.

The Selecao will need Fred to continue his form in order for the Brazilians to have a chance. They cannot rely solely on Neymar in the attacking third because he'll get worn out against Spain's suffocating and physical defense. 

Expect Fred's ability (or inability) to get around the net to be a huge factor in this match.