When the groups for the Confederations Cup were announced, the attention of most observers turned to the possibility of a Brazil-Spain final.
Well, as fate would have it, that is the championship match on tap for Sunday. This is a match that has been a long time coming. ESPN explains:
Brazil and Spain haven’t played a non-friendly match since the 1986 World Cup. Sunday’s Confed Cup Final will not be friendly.— ESPN (@espn) June 28, 2013
This matchup should be a wonderful contrast of styles. Brazil brings a high-powered attack against the controlled, precision play of Spain. While Spain is the world's No. 1 team and should be considered the favorite, it will be played in Brazil. A Selecao will be buoyed by a boisterous home crowd.
So, a hotly contested and memorable game likely awaits, and with storylines like the following three, how could it not be?
Will Spain Show Signs of Fatigue?
Spain was going to be at a natural disadvantage from the start in the fatigue department. Their semifinal against Italy came a day after Brazil toppled Uruguay, 2-1, to reach the final.
However, not only is Spain forced to deal with fewer days to rest, but they have to do so after playing a grueling match against Italy that went to penalties.
Of course, Spain isn't looking to use this as an excuse. Spanish coach Vicente del Bosque, according to FIFA.com, made that clear with this quote: "It [fatigue] shouldn't be an excuse. It's a different match. We have 72 hours, others have a bit more, but we want to put on a good show."
While this is an admirable position to take, there is no doubt that fatigue will play into the performance of the Spanish side. The only question is how much.
Will Neymar Give His Future Teammates a Lesson?
When Neymar takes the pitch on Sunday, he will look across at his foes and see a whole host of men who are about to become his teammates.
Not that the 21-year-old star needed any more motivation, but I have to believe he is itching to give his new teammates a firsthand view of what he can do. If he plays like has in his previous four Confederations Cup games, he will make a dazzling impression.
Neymar is tied with Fred at three goals to lead Brazil in this tournament. He was voted "Man of the Match" for Brazil's first three games, and he was pivotal in the semifinal win over Uruguay.
I wouldn't be shocked at all to see Neymar pull out another amazing goal like the one he did against Japan earlier in this tournament:
Has Brazil Closed the Gap on Spain?
Brazil has been tumbling down the world rankings, while the team has gone through a transition period. They currently sit at No. 22.
Who will win?
The slide has involved an ineffective offense, which led to a change on the sideline.
Mano Menezes was let go in favor of the more aggressive Luiz Felipe Scolari, and the Brazil attack is beginning to take off. That has been on vivid display in this tournament.
Heading into the championship, Brazil has tallied 11 goals on 37 shots. Again, that is in just four matches.
Now, Brazil will get a chance to flash their new and dynamic attack against the world's best team. If they can crack the Spain defense, it will send a huge message to the world heading into next year's World Cup.