In what could be a preview of a World Cup final next year, Spain and Brazil will battle in the Confederations Cup final on Sunday.
While eight teams entered this tournament with various expectations, these were clearly the two best squads in the event. Each side cruised through the group stage with three straight wins before grabbing impressive victories in the semifinals.
Spain was seriously challenged in its recent match against Italy and needed penalty kicks to advance to the final. However, this is still the most successful international squad in recent years, with a World Cup title and two wins at the European Championships.
Meanwhile, Brazil will look to end this reign as the host country. With a host of talented young players, the group has as good of a chance as anyone to defeat its imposing opponent.
This match is certain to be close throughout the 90 minutes and possibly beyond. The winner will be decided by strong performances from important players as well as these key factors.
Time of Possession
While this statistic does not always mean everything in a match, it will be a huge factor in this battle. Both sides love to control the ball as long as possible and work to get the best possible look at the net before actually taking a shot.
Against most opponents, each midfield is good enough to control possession for at least 60 percent of the match. The players make excellent passes, which leads to plenty of success on both ends of the pitch.
Obviously, that high number will not be possible, as something will have to give in the upcoming match.
Whichever side ends up with a low amount of possession will have to find a way to score with quick strikes as opposed to the normal strategy.
Spain was unable to change things up against Italy and it was held scoreless throughout the match. If Brazil is able to have a similar offensive attack (albeit more successful in the final third), it could seriously damage its opponent's ability to put goals on the board.
Ability to Finish Opportunities
While Spain and Italy displayed strong defense throughout their semifinal match, there were plenty of missed opportunities as well that could have changed the outcome. This is rare for Spain, which has generally finished its chances when they present themselves.
It will be up to whichever forwards are on the pitch between Pedro, Fernando Torres and David Silva to turn this around. The midfielders will get them opportunities, but these experienced scorers have to do a better job of putting shots into the net.
This was also a bit of a problem for Brazil in the semifinal after getting an impressive 10 shots on goal against Uruguay. The team likely should have been able to get more than its two goals in the match.
Despite goalkeeper Fernando Muslera's strong effort, the bigger problem was the Brazilians' inability to get better placement on their shots. They certainly will not be able to get weak attempts beyond Iker Casillas in the final.
Neymar has had some impressive goals in this tournament and Fred has been a scoring machine as well. They will need to keep that up for Brazil to get the win in this one.
For Spain, this is simply yet another international tournament the players expect to win. Based on the recent success, it is difficult to imagine any other result.
It will be interesting to see if this confidence turns into cockiness when the team takes the pitch on Sunday. The close call against Italy should have certainly caused the players to refocus on the task at hand.
Of course, this is a much bigger moment for Brazil. The national team is historically one of the best in the world, but it has struggled in recent years and has lost in the quarterfinals of each of the last two World Cups.
A win in this match will prove that the club is back among the best and should make it favorites to win the 2014 World Cup that will also be in Brazil.
Then again, these young players are certain to know what is at stake in this contest. That should cause some nervous play from the inexperienced group.
If Brazil is unable to play as loose as it has throughout the tournament, it will have a hard time beating the defending world champs.
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