It's no secret that there wasn't a more compelling potential matchup for the Confederations Cup final than Brazil taking on Spain. What isn't being mentioned quite as often, however, is that Brazil probably isn't constructed to beat a team like La Roja.
While there isn't exactly a formula for beating Spain (since nobody seems to be able to pull off the feat), there are a few ways you can at least give yourself a chance to earn the upset.
Park the bus and keep things close. Beat them consistently in the air. Take advantage of a good but not great back line, namely on the counter-attack. Continuously press them high up the pitch and keep them pinned in their own defensive third, preventing them from dictating the rhythm of the game. Dominate them physically, since you can't dominate them technically.
The question remains if Brazil is capable of doing any of those things.
It's hard to imagine Brazil parking the bus and simply conceding possession. I think the mere suggestion of that strategy would offend many Brazilians. Rather, you can expect the team to press further up the pitch and try to win the ball back.
It's a dangerous strategy in two respects: for one, if Spain beats the pressure they'll find plenty of space to exploit, and the Spanish attackers in space are incredibly potent.
But the other danger is simply one of fitness. At some point, constantly chasing the ball and playing pressure high up the pitch wears a team down. It takes a very focused mind and sharp reflexes to match wits with Spain—the more worn down a team gets over the course of 90 minutes, the more likely Spain is to find a crease and just as quickly find the back of the net.
I don't doubt that Brazil can score on Spain. They are dangerous enough on the counter-attack to beat Spain in that regard, and have enough individual brilliance in players like Neymar to create a moment of magic.
What I do doubt, however, is whether Brazil can keep Spain from scoring several times. Italy knew they would have to chase the ball but would also have to concede possession and keep 10 players behind the ball for much of the game. That strategy worked enough to force penalty kicks.
But Brazil are naturally aggressive, and I fear it will lead them to create pockets of space for Spain to run into, putting a lot of pressure on the Brazilian back four. Plus, Dani Alves and Marcelo love to play far up the pitch, meaning it could be Spain who is the more dangerous side on the counter-attack in this contest.
Brazil isn't physically superior enough when compared to Spain to out-hustle and outmuscle them. They are a skilled team at maintaining possession themselves, but Spain is world-class at quickly winning the ball back and Brazil generally goes into attack mode when they win the ball.
There is a reason teams play defensively against Spain—quite simply, they are so technically skilled you don't want to contest an open, free-flowing game against them, the sort of contest Brazil relishes in playing.
In other words, I see Brazil's footballing personality playing right into the technical hands of Spain. It will be fun, but La Roja will win this contest, 2-1.
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