Brazil vs. Spain match ‘entire world wanted’

The Associated PressJune 30, 2013 

RIO DE JANEIRO — The Confederations Cup has the final nearly everyone wanted: a long-awaited matchup between world champion Spain and host Brazil.

The most dominant national team in recent years and the most successful team ever in international play will meet Sunday at Maracana Stadium for the title of the eight-nation warm-up tournament for next year’s World Cup.

It will be the first meeting between the nations since 1999 and their first competitive match since Brazil’s 1-0 win on Socrates’ goal in the first round of the 1986 World Cup in Mexico.

“It’s the match everyone wanted to happen,” Brazilian striker Neymar said. “The entire world wanted it, and everybody will be watching it.”

Brazil, which has won the last two Confederation Cups, hopes a victory will help it regain status as a global power after recent struggles, while Spain wants to show that not even the five-time world champions can put a dent in its supremacy.

“Brazil is possibly the best team in the history of football, and to face them in this situation is something magnificent,” Spanish midfielder Xavi Hernandez said. “It’s a special final, a special night. We want to win it.”

With more than 70,000 Brazilian fans expected to pack the iconic venue, the world and European champions will be put to a test by a reinvigorated Selecao led by 21-year-old Neymar and World Cup-winning coach Luiz Felipe Scolari.

“Spain is a spectacular team, but it has weak points just like any other team,” Scolari said Saturday. “I don’t think they are the favorites. We are capable of winning. This is our home, and we need to make them respect us.”

Spain won the 2010 World Cup along with the 2008 and 2012 European Championships.

La Furia Roja is unbeaten in a world record 29 competitive matches over three years since losing its 2010 World Cup opener to Switzerland, outscoring opponents 69-11 over that span.

Brazil won its fifth World Cup title in 2002 but was eliminated in the quarterfinals in the last two World Cups and hasn’t won a significant title since the 2009 Confederations Cup in South Africa.

“They are the current world champions. They have to be praised,” Brazil captain Thiago Silva said. “But anything can happen in a final, and I’m certain that Brazil will be fully prepared for the matchup.”

Spain hasn’t lost in 26 straight matches overall, since a 1-0 defeat against England at London in 2011.

Brazil has struggled since Scolari, who coached Brazil to the 2002 World Cup title, replaced Mano Menezes in November. Brazil enters the final on a five-game winning streak.

“There is no doubt it will be an even match,” Brazil right back Daniel Alves said. “There is mutual respect between these two national teams.”

To reach the final, Brazil beat Japan, Mexico and Italy in the group stage before defeating South American champion Uruguay 2-1 in the semifinals. Spain defeated the Uruguayans in its opener, then routed Tahiti and beat Nigeria before getting past Italy on penalty kicks in the semifinals.

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