The Confederations Cup has got the final nearly everyone wanted.
The World Cup holder against the five-time world champion. The two-time European winners against the tournament host. Spain’s passing wizards vs. Brazil’s new star, Neymar.
Spain came through an exhausting scoreless 120 minutes and then a penalty-kick shootout, 7-6, over Italy in the semifinal Thursday and will face Brazil in Rio de Janeiro’s Maracana Stadium on Sunday to cap the World Cup warm-up tournament.
“I think everybody was waiting for this Confederations Cup final to be Spain vs. Brazil,” Spain captain Iker Casillas said. “I think the two teams that deserve to play the final are actually playing it.”
Jesus Navas scored the decisive penalty kick after a draining match made more difficult by heat and thick humidity.
Nobody missed in the shootout until Italy defender Leonardo Bonucci shot over the bar to give Navas an attempt at the winner. The recently signed Manchester City midfielder coolly beat goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon to end a top-class battle.
While calling his squad “lucky” to win, Spain coach Vicente del Bosque was not about to concede the final due to fatigue — even though Spain has one fewer day of rest than Brazil, which beat Uruguay 2-1 Wednesday.
“We have to now consider what we have to do in the three days to recover. And we will definitely stand up to Brazil in the Maracana,” the manager said. “The players should feel just as happy as kids playing in the Maracana. They have won a lot, but they want to win in the Maracana.
Italy’s Emanuele Giaccherini hit a post in the 93rd minute and Buffon deflected Xavi Hernandez’s kick off a post in the 115th. Those were the best chances in extra time, and then came 12 perfect penalties before Bonucci missed.
Before kickoff, about 5,000 anti-government protesters, angry about corruption, poor public services and the billions of dollars being spent to host the World Cup and the 2016 Olympics in Rio, battled police about a mile from the stadium. One protester died after falling from an overpass.
Landon Donovan is returning to the U.S. national team for next month’s CONCACAF Gold Cup after an absence of nearly 11 months. Donovan and veteran defender Oguchi Onyewu were among 23 players picked for the American roster. … The U.S. was knocked out of the Under-20 World Cup in the first round, finishing last in Group A with a 4-1 loss to Ghana in Kayseri, Turkey.