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Confederations Cup: Brazil vs. Spain in dream final
RIO DE JANEIRO — The Confederations Cup has the final many 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 warmup 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,” said 21-year-old Brazilian forward Neymar, the star of the five-time world champions. “The entire world wanted it and everybody will be watching it.”
With more than 70,000 Brazilian fans packing the iconic venue, Brazil will be seeking its third straight Confederations Cup title. Spain enters unbeaten in a world record 29 competitive matches over three years since losing its 2010 World Cup opener to Switzerland.
“For us it’s a dream game,” Spain coach Vicente Del Bosque told FIFA.
Brazil 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. Spain won the 2010 World Cup along with the 2008 and 2012 European Championships.
“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 matches overall since a 1-0 defeat against England at Wembley in 2011. Brazil struggled after coach Luiz Felipe Scolari replaced Mano Menezes in November, winning only one of its first six matches. Scolari, who coach Brazil to the 2002 World Cup title, enters the final with a five-game winning streak.
“There is no doubt it will be an even match,” Brazil right back Daniel Alves said Saturday. “There is mutual respect between these two national teams.”
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.
“It’s the match everybody has been waiting for,” said Brazil assistant coach Carlos Alberto Parreira, who led the national team to the 1994 world title. “We all know how good Spain is, but Brazil is going through a sensational moment and is full of confidence.”
While the host hasn’t played since Wednesday, Spain endured overtime and the shootout in the semifinal against Italy in the heat of Fortaleza on Thursday. Del Bosque has said Spain will not use fatigue as an excuse, and Scolari also downplayed the issue.
“They were able to rest all of their starters when they played Tahiti, so basically they had to play one game less than we did,” he said.
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