Brazil humbled world and European champions Spain in the final game of the FIFA Confederations Cup at the iconic Maracana Stadium in Rio de Janeiro. The hosts have now succeeded in winning the World Cup dress-rehearsal for the third consecutive time after seeing off Spain, who had the one trophy they so longed for elude them in the course of 92 minutes.
The 80,000 supporters at the Maracana roared every moment the ball went past Iker Casillas as Fluminense striker Fred fired home a brace, each in the first two minutes of either halves, while the tournament sensation and £49m Barcelona new recruit Neymar did more than justify his price tag scoring his fourth goal of the tournament a minute before the interval.
Much have been said about the brilliance of the 21-year-old Neymar, who became a nightmare for the Spaniards, pulling all the strings for Luis Felipe Scolari’s men, slicing open the Spanish defence now and then during the course of the fascinating encounter.
Fred got his first goal from the scrappiest of goal line proficiency, sweeping in a Neymar’s knockdown with his backside to the ground in the Spanish six yard.
The Selacao’s high-pressing game robbed the La Roja Furia’s midfield of their ‘tiki taka’ prowess and many would have argued that the absence of Xabi Alonzo was hard felt on Sunday night. However, Spain enjoyed their first stint of concerted pressure in the 20th minute as Andres Iniesta’s fizzling low shot was scrambled out for a corner by goalkeeper Julio Cesar.
The Group B winners won a free-kick around 35 yards in the 24th minute which Real Madrid defender Sergio Ramos blasted hopelessly wide. Fred had a golden opportunity to extend the tally in the 33rd but his tame shot was blocked by the feet of Casillas. Moments later, the ex-Lyon forward ran clear of his marker from a corner to send a free header past the post.
An equaliser for Spain looked certain in the 42nd minute when Pedro raced clear of the Selecao defence before confidently rolling the ball past goalkeeper Cesar, but David Luiz heroically flung himself across the goal-line to scoop the ball over the bar. The Chelsea centre-back’s name echoed around the vast dins of the Maracana in appreciation.
But it was Neymar who stole the spotlight some few minutes later. He smartly stayed onside to collect Oscar’s pass before smashing a thunderous effort past a static Casillas. Game on for the hosts who were cheered off the pitch to a remarkable ovation at the interval.
Second half got off in a similar pace as the first, as Fred scored from inside Spain’s penalty area with a wonderful first-time finish in the 47th.
Spain got a lifeline in the 53rd minute when Marcelo clumsily hacked down substitute Jesus Navas, but for Ramos to confidently drill his effort from the penalty spot wide; they couldn’t hang on to it.
Apart, the Europeans fell. In the 57th minute, Neymar’s through ball found Hulk only to be denied by an onrushing Casillas. Six minutes later, Neymar sliced open the Spanish defence again and placed a beautifully-weighted slide rule pass to Marcelo who greedily shot from a tight angle, instead of floating a pass to Fred; he sent it crashing into the side-netting.
Coach Vicente del Bosque’s substitution couldn’t justify its course as Navas flashed a shot past the Brazil post in the 66th minute. Two minutes later, they were reduced to ten men. Gerard Pique storms across a goal-bound Neymar and earned a straight red card in the process.
Just into the final 10, Pedro’s fierce angled strike was superbly tipped wide by Cesar who later pushed to safety David Villa’s goal bound effort, still no joy for Spain.
After two minutes of added time the proceedings was brought to a halt. All said and done, the Selecao were simply magnificent for their opponent.
As expected, Neymar received the Golden Ball for his stunning performances as he was voted the tournament’s best, followed by Spain playmaker Andres Iniesta who got the Silver Ball, while Neymar’s teammate Paulinho clinched the Bronze Ball.
Julio Cesar was handed the Golden Gloves and Iker Casillas collected the Fair Play award.
Fernando Torres received the Golden Boot; Fred got the Silver Boot, while Neymar made away with the Bronze Boot.