Who said international football is dead?
The 2013 Confederations Cup was one of the most enjoyable international tournaments in years. It's only appropriate that such an entertaining event was concluded with a thrilling final.
Spain was thrashed, 3-0, by Brazil in what was almost identical scene to Barcelona's two-legged defeat to Bayern Munich in this past season's Champions League.
The Confederations Cup comes a distant third to the World Cup and European Championship in the pecking order of international tournaments. That doesn't mean there weren't some major lessons to be learned and major questions to be answered.
Here are four things Sunday's final taught us.
Spain Have Their Issues
Spain are not a perfect team, and that was demonstrated in a big way in the final.
Right-back is one of the biggest issues. Alvaro Arbeloa looked nothing like a professional defender in the first half. Neymar was getting all kinds of space and time on the ball. It's generally a major statement if a healthy player is taken off at halftime. Cesar Azpilicueta was an upgrade but not a major one.
Striker was also a problem and continues to be the issue.
Spain manager Vicente del Bosque has to decide which player will be his centre-forward and stick with it. Spain haven't really had consistent play from the position and lack a true target man. Fernando Torres continues to score goals either against weaker opposition or when the match has already been decided. When Torres had his biggest and most important tests, he failed every time.
Quite possibly the biggest issue is fatigue.
Much like in the semifinal against Italy, Spain's players looked knackered. That's not good when you rely on a high-pressure, ball-retention strategy. The Spanish football federation often schedules lucrative friendlies for its national team, rather than letting the players get a proper rest. It's really starting to take its toll, as that has happened for the last three or four years, leaving the key players having to play almost year-round.
Luckily, this wasn't the final of the World Cup. Del Bosque has a year to work the kinks out as Spain travel along the road to Brazil. Given his tactical acumen and the talent at his disposal, you wouldn't want to bet against Spain this time next year.
Gerard Pique Continues to Deteriorate
It's hard to believe there was a time when Gerard Pique was one of the best centre-backs in the world. What's even harder to believe is that that period of time was only about two or three seasons ago.
As this point, Pique is coasting on reputation alone, as his performances on the pitch don't warrant him being in the Spain XI, nor being regular a starter for Barcelona.
The final was an example of how far Pique has fallen. The Guardian's Jacob Steinberg summed it up very well.
Pique was getting run around all over the place at the back. He made a mess of Fred's first goal, as he completely lost the striker and ball, letting Fred poke it in from a few yards out. Then came the red card Pique was given for his foul on Neymar. It was a terrible challenge as he mistimed the tackle very badly, catching Neymar flush and not making contact with the ball.
The bigger question is whether or not del Bosque and Barca manager Tito Vilanova will have the guts to bump Pique out of the lineup.
Brazil Can Be World-Beaters
Count Brazil among the favorites to win the 2014 World Cup. They had their fair share of issues coming into the Confederations Cup, and they responded by having a great tournament.
By hosting the World Cup, Brazil already has their place in the tournament booked. That can be both a blessing and curse. You get the comfort of not having to worry about qualifying for the event. On the other hand, you don't get the slog that is qualifying in order to improve your team and figure out your best XI.
Luiz Felipe Scolari had so far flattered to deceive in his second stint as national team manager.
After the Confederations Cup, he positioned Brazil as good as he possibly could have. This was the team's biggest test before 2014, and it passed with flying colors.
The core of this team should only improve over the next season, as well. The likes of David Luiz, Paulinho and Neymar are only starting to reach their primes.
There are still plenty of other great teams in Europe and South America, so Brazil have a lot of work to do to be considered the team to beat next year. They're definitely in the conversation, though, to be one of the teams to knock off Spain, especially considering their performance on Sunday.
Neymar is Ready for Prime Time
What do the critics have to say now?
Coming into the tournament, no player was more hyped than Neymar. Following his move to Barcelona, fans wanted to see exactly what all the hype was about. Every fan that has seen Neymar's best highlights probably hasn't seen a lot of his matches for Santos in the Brazilian league.
After the Confederations Cup, it's hard to think that there are any fans who are still unconvinced. Neymar was a strong finisher and did well to get his teammates involved. His goal against Spain was arguably his best of the tournament when you take into account both the stage and level of difficulty.
Neymar did have his negatives. He made a few rash tackles, and the diving was comical at times. What footballer was the finished product at 21 years old, though? Plenty of people were trying to knock down Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi when they were the same age. Now they're the two best players in the world and will go down as two of the best to ever play the game.
Neymar has a great chance to be the next great Brazilian footballer, following in the footsteps of Pele, Socrates, Zico, Romario, Ronaldo, Ronaldinho and Kaka.
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