Nearly two weeks ago, soccer fans across the world turned their attention to Brazil, and the FIFA Confederations championship match between Spain and Brazil. The legendary match-up featured recently introduced Brazilian talent Neymar against the defending world cup champion Spanish squad.
Since 2010, Spain has reigned over all major international soccer tournaments, winning the 2010 World Cup and the 2012 European Cup. With an incredible pool of talent and seamless teamwork, the Spanish seemed poised to take the Confederations Cup as well.
While Spain’s principal players have cemented their style and strategy, this particular Brazilian squad is young and inexperienced. This perhaps explains why, a month ago, FIFA’s renewed international rankings held Brazil at 22nd, a dismal statistic for the hosts of next year’s World Cup.
Out to prove the rankings irrelevant, Brazil launched an aggressive and industrious campaign for the 2013 Confederations Cup. Throughout the tournament, they played rapidly and intelligently, seizing opportunities and setting the tempo.
Within the opening minutes of the Confederations Cup, Brazil capitalized on a Spanish fumble and narrowly slipped a goal past Spain to make it 1-0. While Brazil continued their spirited play, Spain struggled to defend against their swift breaks.
Despite intense pressure by the Brazilians, Spain still displayed glimpses of their signature passing and aggressive style. Toward the end of the first half, Spaniard player Pedro accurately shot past the Brazilian goalkeeper, only to be denied by a defender who slid into the goal and prevented the equalizer.
As if to add to Spain’s disappointment, Brazil’s offense followed up by Neymar’s incontestable and powerful shot into the roof of the net.
Little changed in the second half as Brazil maintained the same aggressive tempo, again scoring within the opening minutes to make the final score of 3-0.
Despite a significantly greater rate of possession, Spain missed several chances to score and create opportunities due to faulty performance and being continually outmuscled by Brazil.
Though many credit the game entirely to Brazil’s pressure and recapturing within the midfield, some speculate that Spain’s withheld performance was tied to their exhaustion from the earlier extended penalty shoot-out win against Italy.
Brazil had an extra day of rest compared to Spain, which in such a brief tournament could have had a significant effect.
Whatever the conditions, the recent loss is sure to be a great motivator for Spain in preparing for next year’s World Cup. When asked to comment on the game, the lauded Spain coach Vicente Del Bosque plainly replied, “Brazil were better than us and we have to congratulate them.”
Expectations are that Brazil will dominate next year, yet such thinking may be too hasty.
While the Confederations Cup is considered a “dress-rehearsal” to the World Cup (held a year before and hosted in the same country), it does not determine success in the World Cup.
It should be noted that no team has ever won both the Confederations Cup and the World Cup one after another. In fact, Brazil won the Confederations Cup in 2009, but only managed to reach the quarterfinals of the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.
Although nothing is certain, Brazilians can rest assured that their squad is well on its way to becoming a contender for the World Cup in 2014.
Shortly after Brazil’s spectacular success in the Confederations Cup, the team’s FIFA World Ranking jumped 13 spots to sit at 9th in the world (certainly a more fitting rank).
The matter remaining for Brazil is whether they will continue to expand on their newfound success, exploit their home-field advantage, and transform that potential into a 6th World Cup title. Only time will tell what will happen in 2014, but soccer fans all over the world will be watching how far Neymar can carry Brazil, and if Spain can bounce back from that embarrassing defeat and defend their title.
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