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Samba Magic returns as Brazil trounce Spain 3-0 to lift Confederations Cup

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The Final of the 2013 FIFA Confederations Cup ended in a convincing 3-0 win for the hosts Brazil against world champions Spain, marking their third successive Confederations Cup victory. Once the inevitable, patently silly obituaries of Spain’s footballing style are penned, however, it will be important to consider what this victory means for Brazil in the context of the greater test the next year. Spain, for example, lost to the USA in 2009 in this tournament, before going on to win the World Cup the following year. Hence, although, Brazil were extremely impressive herein, their success must be viewed as an important, albeit minor, step towards the actualization of the vastly more consequential goal - the World Cup in 2014; similarly, while Spain looked fatigued after their shootout victory against Italy in the semi-final, it would be foolish to write them and their footballing ideology off given that they are one of, if not the finest team to play the game and still boast an impressive cast of individuals capable of retaining the trophy in 2014.

Luis Felipe Scolari continued with the same team that beat Uruguay in the semi-final, and what is increasingly seen as his starting eleven in what might be considered a bid to perpetuate consistency in squad selection following his inheritance of a fairly divided Brazilian dressing room. Hulk, who hadn’t enjoyed a particularly fine tournament, continued on the right flank, and is perhaps the only selection choice for Scolari to make ahead of the World Cup, given his profligacy in the face of considerable creative freedom. Vicente Del Bosque, meanwhile, handed a start to Chelsea youngster Juan Mata on the flank, opting to bench his Premier League rival David Silva of Manchester City, who started the semi-final against Uruguay.

Brazil took the lead early on in the game in a scrappy manner when, following a cross from the right flank, Fred scored while still on the floor.

As has been their preferred manner of play throughout the tournament, Brazil pressed high and intensely during the first ten minutes of the game, while looking to get the ball forward quickly, thus disrupting Spain’s passing. Paulinho soon tried a speculative chip, but was unfortunate to watch the ball pushed back from behind the line by Iker Casillas. Shortly after, Alvaro Arbeloa, who had a very poor game, and perhaps seems the likeliest to be replaced in an otherwise stable Spanish eleven, was fortunate to be left on the pitch when he brought down Neymar, who managed to get onto a long ball from Marcelo, in what seemed like a denial of goalscoring opportunity.

Spain’s dominance of the game and the tendency of the Brazilian centre-backs to stick tight to Torres resulted in Spain’s finest chance of the game as Mata released Pedro, who was consequently through on goal, only to be denied by a fantastic goal-line clearance by Chelsea defender David Luiz. Spain were to rue this miss as on the stroke of half-time, Neymar smashed a goal into the left corner to make it 2-0, following a fine pass from Oscar.

At half-time, Del Bosque substituted Arbeloa for Azpilicueta, which was more than just a recognition of Arbeloa’s poor performance, but presumably also to provide attacking drive from the right back position, given how reluctant Spain’s midfielders were to distribute the ball to Arbeloa, even when he is in acres of space.

However, that change didn’t do anything to stop Fred from scoring his second past Casillas in the 47th minute following a David Luiz run down the left and a Marcelo switch into the middle which Spain were unable to cope with.

Del Bosque promptly removed Mata and brought the new Manchester City winger Jesus Navas on, shifting Pedro to the left, and he had an immediate impact - winning a penalty for Spain after being brought down by Marcelo in the box. Sergio Ramos, however, fired the penalty wide, thus perhaps ending all hope for the world champions in the final.

Following the miss, Del Bosque made his final change, bringing on David Villa for Torres, who had a poor game, but, strangely, walked away with a second consecutive Golden Boot at an international tournament by virtue of lesser game time.

Spain, who were looking increasingly unable to cope with the fast and functional nature of this Brazilian team, then saw Pique sent off for a cynical foul on Neymar, which resulted in Busquets moving into the heart of defence following the use of all three substitutions by Del Bosque before the 60th minute. From there on, Brazil were content to knock the ball around, choosing to kill the game a la Spain, a strategy that invited late pressure from the world champions, who saw shots from Villa and Pedro blocked by QPR stopper Julio Cesar.

In summary, therefore, it was a most satisfying 3-0 win for the host nation, who will now, inevitably, be among the favourites to topple Spain’s reign at the top, following a fine display against the world champions themselves. Spain, meanwhile, have some introspection to do, even though this failure would hardly be deemed catastrophic. Arbeloa, at his best, has always been only a solid, reliable option at right-back, and Del Bosque might seriously consider replacing him with Chelsea’s right-back Cesar Azpilicueta, who provides more attacking drive and width from that position, perhaps enabling Spain to stretch the play in both directions, thus lessening their reliance on Alba for provision of width. Similarly, Torres, another Chelsea player, might also not feature prominently the next time around given his form and his contribution to games, and Del Bosque could consider options such as Soldado, or even Fabregas in his false nine role, up front.

Brazil, on the other hand, appear a settled side, credit for which must certainly go to Scolari, who has stuck with the same eleven in every game, save for the replacement of Paulinho by Hernanes due to injury against Italy. Moreover, he has managed to combine his appreciation for functional, defensive-minded midfielders sitting in front of the back four (Gustavo and Paulinho) with the aesthetically pleasing football, primarily engineered by the two wingers (Neymar and Hulk) that Brazilian fans are desperate for. Marcelo at left-back had a very impressive tournament, charging up the flank, combining neatly with Neymar, and often also charging into the middle of the park to provide a different threat, and so did Paulinho, the midfielder, who looked assured in possession, contributing assists, as evidenced by his wonderful through ball for Brazil’s first goal against Uruguay, and the odd goal, as seen by his header to seal the win in the aforementioned game.


Brazil: Julio Cesar, Dani Alves, Thiago Silva, David Luiz, Marcelo, Paulinho, Gustavo, Oscar, Hulk, Neymar, Fred.

Subs: Jefferson, Fernando, Lucas Moura, Hernanes, Dante, Filipe Luis, Jean, Rever, Bernard, Jo, Jadson, Cavalieri.

Spain: Casillas, Arbeloa, Pique, Sergio Ramos, Jordi Alba, Busquets, Xavi, Iniesta, Pedro, Mata, Torres.

Subs: Valdes, Albiol, Javi Martinez, Azpilicueta, Villa, Fabregas, Soldado, Monreal, Cazorla, Silva, Jesus Navas, Reina.

Final Score: Brazil 3-0 Spain (Fred 2’, 47’, Neymar 44’)