Have Brazil Signalled a Change to Football's World Order With Spain Win?
The 2013 Confederations Cup is over, with Brazil securing a comprehensive 3-0 victory over Spain to seal the title in front of their vocal home support.
It was a victory that was arguably more emphatic than the scoreline suggests with a couple of late La Roja chances failing to hide the complete dominance of the Selecao in Rio de Janeiro.
The game may have been played in conditions that favoured Brazil, which also had an extra day of rest following the semifinals, but Spain were not even close to competing.
As always after a great side suffers such a defeat, the questions begin as to the implications of the result, and its bearing on the side's future path. Spain, having been so remarkably successful, are scrutinised as much as any side in history.
It was the same for Barcelona, having been outplayed by Bayern Munich in the semifinal of this season's Champions League. Every possible angle of the defeat was examined to see if it, just possibly, could be the end of their dominance of football at the club level.
It is, though, often easy to read too much into individual results.
The key themes of both defeats, though, were similar. That, in itself, will be a worry to Spain head coach Vicente del Bosque, whose side play a very similar game to Barcelona at the club level.
Spain were bullied by Brazil, which were quick to close down and get tight to their opponents. They were also unable to deal with the skill and speed of the Selecao's attack from transitions—just as Barca had been so helpless against Bayern.
This series of results is far from the death of tiki-taka as we know it but maybe a call for some adaptation. The players looked tired, and once more failed to press their opponents. Without high-pressure, it is easy for Spain to look short of numbers in defence.
Is reverting to two holding midfielders the answer? Possibly.
Whatever Del Bosque decides, it is clear that there will be three or four places up for grabs over the coming 12 months. Given Spanish performances at youth levels, there are plenty of players just waiting for their opportunity.
But what of Brazil? Have the Selecao made themselves real contenders for the 2014 World Cup? Possibly. However, there is a long way to go yet.
Luiz Felipe Scolari will have learned much about his side over the last few weeks, and most importantly, his charges will have gained a lot of confidence for their exploits. In Neymar, they have a true star to lead the way, but the support cast is none too shabby.
Issues with the balance of the side are starting to be addressed. Paulinho and Luiz Gustavo grew into the tournament as a partnership, while the attacking unit functioned throughout. In defence, goalkeeper Julio Cesar and his centre-backs each lived up to their full potential.
To win the World Cup next year, Brazil will need to harness the expectations of the nation as they did this past fortnight. Passions running high off the pitch led to some super-charged openings from the hosts and some early goals to, in turn, set them on their way.
Besides Neymar, Paulinho also announced his arrival as a major football star. Voted the third best player of the competition, it appears likely he will now head for the Premier League, as per ESPN. He will undoubtedly continue to develop for his move.
It would be hasty to predict either a Brazilian rise to prominence or the end of the Spanish reign over world football. However, the events in the Maracana will have altered the way both sides are perceived.
Brazil were seen as beatable opposition earlier this year but will now be greatly feared once more. Spain, meanwhile, having also snuck past Italy in the semifinals, have shown vulnerability that their rivals will now look to explore further.
One result will not greatly change the international footballing landscape—after all, Spain fell to the USA in the 2009 Confederations Cup. However, it will alter the outlook for both sides.
Concerns about aging Spanish players will now return to the top of the agenda, as will the side's areas of weakness—notably right-back and centre-forward.
For Brazil, it will now be a question of maintaining the momentum gained. However, they are already much better off from the low ebb of just a few weeks ago.
It has been an intriguing few weeks, and all sides involved will have learned much from their experiences. The Confederations Cup is often treated with disdain, but this has been a tournament that has lived up to all expectations.
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