The 2013 Confederations Cup comes to a close on Sunday at Estadio do Maracana in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
The host Brazilians will battle world No. 1 Spain after a 2-1 victory over Uruguay in the semifinals. Meanwhile, Spain is coming off a victory via penalty kicks over Italy.
In such an intriguing matchup, any team could win, but only one will ultimately emerge as the champion. In what should be a low-scoring affair drenched with drama, here are my predictions for the 2013 Confederations Cup final.
Spain Will Enter Halftime with a 1-0 Lead
Spain scored at least once in the first half in every one of its matches in the group stage. Also, the two goals Brazil allowed to Italy in the group stage still resonate with me. Add in the relative inexperience of Brazil against Spain's veteran squad, and you have the recipe for an early lead for Spain on Sunday.
Italy was able to hold Spain at bay during regulation, but I don't think the high-powered La Roja will repeat that performance. This is a championship match, and talented, experienced squads tend to lay down the hammer in such matches.
Brazil Will Equalize in the Second Half
That being said, Brazil isn't going to go down quietly. The Brazilians are backed by their home crowd, and scoring zero goals in that situation seems unlikely, even with the way Spain's defense has performed overall in the tournament.
Plus, it's not like Italy didn't have chances against Spain in the semifinals. I counted at least four instances in which the Italians had a prime opportunity to score but didn't. That included Emanuele Giaccherini hitting the post in the 93rd minute.
Neymar and Co. figure to at least capitalize once against Spain in the final.
Spain Will Win the Match in the Last 10 minutes of Regulation
Who will be crowned champion on Sunday?
In a contentious battle down the stretch, La Roja will ultimately emerge victorious. While Spain's victory over Italy via penalty kicks was a different circumstance, it still demonstrated Spain's ability to pull it off when the opponent was breathing down its neck.
With the match in danger of heading into extra time, look for Spain to exert its will in a hostile environment and score the winning goal in the last 10 minutes of regulation. It would mark what we all believe this match will be: a classic nail-biter.