The Confederations Cup may just be a warm-up for the 2014 FIFA World Cup, but there’s plenty to take away from a final match that pits two of the best teams in the world against one another.
After traversing the group stage with nine points apiece, Spain and Brazil entered the semifinals as heavy favorites to notch a spot in the championship match. Neither side looked especially dominant against Italy or Uruguay, respectively, but there’s something to be said for the quality opponents each team has faced throughout the tournament.
Now, with one match remaining before a champion is crowned, both Brazil and Spain prepare for a match that will feature some of the best players in the world.
Let’s take a look at the vitals of the Confederations Cup championship and highlight some of the talent that could be the deciding factor in this matchup.
Where: Estadio do Maracana; Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
When: Sunday, June 30, at 6 p.m. ET
Jordi Alba, Spain
Jordi Alba is in tremendous position to either fail spectacularly or shine brightly against Brazil.
At left-back, he’ll be expected to both shut down the Brazilian side’s balanced attack and also contribute in the final third as he did spectacularly against Nigeria in the group stage.
Alba typically doesn’t struggle to find his rhythm early in matches, due in large part to his effectiveness at both ends of the pitch. The defender tends to feed off his success both in defense and in the scoring third, making an impact throughout the match.
Against Brazil, Alba will be expected to again find his rhythm early, though Spain are in no need of another tremendous scorer. As long as Alba shuts down Brazil’s attack, he will have done his job in a very important match against an explosive team.
Thiago Silva, Brazil
Like Alba, Thiago Silva can impact a match in several areas. In a final showdown with Spain, that will almost be expected.
Silva will have his work cut out for him, however.
Spain’s attack is arguably the best the in the world, and at center-back, he’ll be tasked with setting the tone in the defensive third. If Silva plays poorly, Brazil will be in dangerous territory.
Silva can contribute in the final third as well, but he shouldn’t be worried about scoring when Brazil square off with Spain. Silva’s main task will be keeping the likes of David Villa, Fernando Torres and Xavi from finding the net, and he’s arguably the biggest X-factor for either team in this contest.
Fred isn’t exactly an unknown, but no one expected him to make as big an impact as he’s made throughout the Confederations Cup. Paired with Neymar, Brazil’s attack has been terrific from start to finish.
But Fred’s success in the tournament also adds a lot of pressure as Brazil prepares to face off with Spain. If Fred doesn’t match his Confederations Cup performance on Sunday, Brazil will face an uphill battle for a trophy.
Neymar is easily Brazil’s most explosive attacker, but the 21-year-old has also benefited from balance perpetuated by the likes of Fred. In order for the striker to succeed against Spain’s tremendous defense, he’ll need Fred to play with the same aggression and poise he has shown throughout the Confederations Cup.