It’s been an exciting couple of weeks for the 2013 Confederations Cup and with the final between Brazil and Spain upon us, it's time to take a look at a couple of players who will be critical to each team’s success.
While neither team had much trouble during group play, both teams had thrilling endings to their semi-final matches.
Brazil was tied with Uruguay with a score of 1-1 before a late game-winning goal by Paulinho in the 86th minute to help the Selecao advance to the final match.
Meanwhile, Spain went through a ridiculous game against Italy. Neither team was able to break through after extra time, forcing a shootout. After that, the two teams made a combined 13 of 14 shootout attempts, with the only miss coming from Leonardo Bonucci, giving La Roja the victory.
The stage is set for what is bound to be an incredible match, and there are a few x-factors who we need to take a look at on each team.
Sure, all of the attention is on Neymar in this match, and for good reason. He’s scored three goals during the tournament and has been simply incredible to watch. After making a large money move to Barcelona, Neymar certainly hasn’t disappointed.
Still, the Brazilians will need someone else to step up in this match, as Spain will do whatever it takes to neutralize Neymar’s scoring ability.
One guy who’s already stepped up for Brazil is Fred. He’s had three goals as well in tournament play, including one in the 41st minute of the most recent match against Uruguay.
The Selecao have an impressive group of attackers, and they will need to find ways to penetrate and get opportunities in order to keep up with Spain’s star-filled roster. Fred is the guy who could turn this match around.
While the attack has been great for Brazil, they wouldn’t be where they were if it weren’t for the simply brilliant performance of Julio Cesar.
In the entire tournament up to this point, Brazil has only allowed two goals, both of which came during a 4-2 victory vs. Italy in group play, and a lot of that credit has to go to the goalkeeper.
Perhaps the biggest play of Brazil’s run was made by Cesar in the last game against Uruguay. With a potential go-ahead penalty kick for Diego Forlan, Cesar was able to make a great save that led to the Selecao pulling away and winning the game.
It will be no easy task going against the attackers of Spain, but if Cesar keeps playing like he has, Brazil will walk away with the Confederations Cup title.
Andres Iniesta and Xavi
The reason these two are put together is that they will both be called upon to weather the storm against the attackers of Brazil.
The midfield duo has been spectacular during the tournament, maintaining possession for La Roja without much trouble. The two have done a great job of making excellent passes and limiting turnovers to keep opposing teams out of dangerous territory.
This will easily be the duo’s toughest task, going against the likes of Neymar, Fred, Paulinho and Hulk. They must continue to keep possession for La Roja if they want to keep the match in check.
The Italians were able to take advantage of Jordi Alba in the semi-final match, but other than that, he has been one of the better players on Spain during the Confederations Cup.
Teams love to have a versatile defender, and Spain has just that in Alba. Not only is he able to play defense at a high level, he is also able to produce some offense as the left-back. Against Nigeria, Alba was able to score two goals in the third and 88th minutes.
Spain has plenty of go-to options in attack, and Alba is the type of player who can take advantage of the limited opportunities he gets. Instead, the battles to watch are between Alba and Brazil's formidable attack. It's a matchup that could make or break the match.