FOX Soccer Exclusive
Brazil wins Confederations Cup final
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL
Brazil won their fourth Confederations Cup tonight in storming style, blitzing Spain 3-0 against a backdrop of noise and pandemonium. Local hero Fred scored twice, Spain’s Gerard Pique was sent off, and Neymar was the man of the match, if not this entire tournament. It was a resounding and comprehensive win on the hosts’ home turf that sent the Maracana’s capacity crowd into delirium.
And then there was the delirium outside, courtesy of the protests that have colored this entire tournament. They were smaller than they have been, but impossible to ignore, as they literally crashed the party. Two dancers during the closing ceremony unfurled banners in support of the movement, and were hurriedly ushered off the field. Tear gas wafted into the upper decks, a remnant of clashes between a small group of marchers outside and the military police.
Sunday’s result will have Brazil thinking they are the best team in the world. That is a debatable claim: this win came against an exhausted Spain side that was coming off a day’s less rest following a grueling penalty-kick shootout win over Italy in the semifinals. Yet it is hard to ignore the individual class that Brazil displayed tonight: when Neymar and Oscar were on the ball, they were truly electric, and there is no doubt that both men have the potential to be superstars.
There is also no arguing with the result, and the manner in which the hosts achieved it. Against a backdrop of their most faithful fans, Brazil dominated the match from start to finish, making one of the greatest teams on the planet look very average. That’s a feat any team can be proud of, no matter what Spain’s legion of defenders might say.
Fred’s goal came off an ungainly play that saw Neymar chest Oscar’s cross back across the face of Iker Casillas’ goal. Jordi Alba and Pique simply ran past the ball, and on the turf, Fred flicked his leg up and the ball skipped over the keeper and into the back of the net. The goal stunned the Spaniards, who spent the next twenty minutes playing a desperate rear-guard action against waves of Brazilian attacks. Oscar would come close, just missing wide left; Fred and Neymar would each have further looks at goal.
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Spain did not get a shot on frame until twenty minutes in when Andres Iniesta stung Julio Cesar’s palms. But the make or break moment came five minutes before the end of the half when David Luiz made a game-saving block. On a clean breakaway, Pedro rounded Julio Cesar and fired a low cutter to the far post. David Luiz sprinted to the goal line and with a dive, flicked the ball up and over the crossbar to preserve the lead.
Neymar would draw a line under the performance just four minutes later. Oscar found Barcelona’s newest prize wide left, and Neymar uncorked a simply unstoppable shot at an acute angle that gave Casillas no chance. It was a classic finish from a player who has been the star of this tournament – and is now expected to lead Brazil to glory here again next year.
Fred scored the capper just after the start of the second half, the finisher at the end of a buildup that saw Hulk flip a pass forward to Neymar, who in turn slid the ball cleanly through the Spanish back four. Fred slid his right-footed bender through sub Cesar Azpilicueta and past a helpless Casillas to set off the fireworks.
Spain’s agony was complete when sub Jesus Navas earned a penalty after a foul from Marcelo – only to see Sergio Ramos slot his shot wide of the net. Ramos’ expression – hangdog, tired and utterly frustrated – summed up Spain’s entire night. When Pique was sent off with twenty minutes to play for a professional foul on Neymar, it didn’t matter. The game had been lost.
Brazil now must build on this win – which in the scheme of things, is minor. The real prize is under a year away, and it will be fought for here in this very same stadium. The Spain that may face them then will learn from tonight’s whipping, and it could well be a very different game. And there is one ugly fact no one likes to mention: no team that has won the Confederations Cup has gone on to win the World Cup. Yet. For now, the carioca funk rules.
There was a heavy police and army presence around the Maracana, aimed at blunting what had been expected to be a large protest. Earlier in the day, a small group of about 5,000 marched toward the stadium peacefully, but were turned away by the security cordon. The later protest, reportedly involving 1,200 people, was not so peaceful as police used stun grenades, tear gas and rubber bullets against a group that was said to be carrying Molotov cocktails. Two policemen were reported injured.
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