With Brazil and Spain ready to battle on the pitch in a non-friendly for the first time since 1986, anticipation for Sunday's Confederations Cup final is at a fevered pitch.
Spain enters as the world's No. 1 team and Brazil sits at No. 22. However, this matchup is far closer than those rankings suggest. Brazil has been playing fabulous as their dynamic attack blossoms under the guidance of Luiz Felipe Scolari.
Either team can win this one, and whichever team does a better of executing the following keys will be the one that winds up on top.
Make the Most of Their Chances
As we just discussed, Scolari has helped ignite Brazil's attack. That has been vividly displayed in this tournament. Through their four Confederations Cup games, Brazil has tallied 11 goals on 37 shots.
They will find creating shots a little more difficult against the possession-minded Spain side.
Spain has allowed just one goal during this stop at the Confederations Cup. That said, they looked a little more vulnerable in their semifinal win over Italy.
Italy booted 13 shots in that match. While this certainly offers a glimpse of hope for Brazil, I wouldn't expect Spain to allow such a high-volume shot total this time around. That means, when Brazil does get a look, they must capitalize on it.
Continue to Play Strong Defense
While it is the Brazil attack and Spain's defense that will get the bulk of attention in this match, it may be the Brazil defense that is the biggest key.
So far, Brazil has been rock solid on defense in this tournament. They have allowed just three goals, and the powerful attack of Uruguay mustered only seven shots in the semi.
However, this defense is not going to be key just when trying to limit Spain's scoring. Brazil must force Spain into some turnovers and bad passes. They can't allow Spain to play in their comfort zone by controlling possession.
If they can force them out of that style of play, it will go a long way toward Brazil notching an epic victory.
Slow Down Neymar
With Fred and Hulk joining Neymar on the Brazil attack, it's not like Brazil is completely reliant on their 21-year-old star. However, he has most definitely been the straw that stirs Brazil's drink during the Confederations Cup.
In Brazil's four games in this tournament, Neymar has notched three goals and two assists. He was voted "Man of the Match" for each of Brazil's first three games. He was also key in their 2-1 win over Uruguay in the semifinals.
If Spain allows him too many touches, he will make them pay.
However, Spain has a squad that can slow down any offensive star, as their precision passing and smart play lead to them dominating possession. They will have to execute in this area on Sunday to slow down Neymar.
Battle off Fatigue
Spain enters this match at an instant disadvantage. First, their semifinal win over Italy came a day after Brazil advanced to the final. Also, Italy gave Spain all they could handle.
Spain was not able to dispatch of Italy until after 120 grueling minutes of play and then penalties.
This kind of physical exertion will take a toll on any team—even one as talented and deep as Spain.
Spain will have to keep their focus on high in this match to avoid the kind of sloppy mistakes that often accompany fatigue.