When it’s all said and done, the 2013 Confederations Cup gave us the final most soccer fans wanted to see: Brazil vs. Spain. The old Samba Kings vs. our new Tika Taka overloads.
Sunday’s game in Rio represents the first time these two powers have played in a FIFA tournament since the 1986 World Cup and first match overall since 1999. The Confederations Cup is the only jewel missing from Spain’s dominating run, which began with the 2008 Euro. (Thank you Bob Bradley.) Brazil is looking to set a positive tone for next summer’s World Cup, which has taken on even greater significance in the face of nationwide protests over the costs to host the tournament.
That’s the basic information, if you needed a reason to watch other than the fact it’s Brazil vs. Spain (5:30, ESPN) for a championship.
This matchup also creates a dilemma for front-running fans looking for a team to root for this afternoon. Until Spain’s ascendancy last decade, Brazil was the go-to nation for bandwagon fans to run toward and support. Brazil, until its recent dip, played the most attractive soccer of any international team. On top of that, it had the best (and most exciting) players with guys like Ronaldinho, Ronaldo, Roberto Carlos, Rivaldo, etc.
It’s hard to exactly fault neutrals flocking to Brazil. Rooting for the five-time world champs doesn’t take a lot of guts or go out on a limb, but Brazil did take playing “the beautiful game” seriously. That line of thinking might be back into play for Brazil now that Neymar, at 21 years old, is the focal point of the national team. If you “hated” Brazil it was chalked up to the nation’s unyielding success, not its style of play.
The rise of Spain to the top of the international game (paralleling the rise of Barcelona in club soccer) is interesting in that it’s generated minimal backlash, or it didn’t until some grumblings during Euro 2012 that their possession passing game was boring to watch since it tended to produce so many 1-0 scorelines. When you think of winning and or popular teams throughout sports, take the Yankees, Duke basketball, etc. there always seems to be as many fans rooting for them to lose as they are for them to win. Spain has seemingly to gotten a pass in this regard, even with there often over-the-top chastising of referees.
Perhaps a win on Sunday will ratchet up the anti-Spain fervor going into next summer’s World Cup. Nobody wants to see the same team win all the time, regardless of the sport in question, do they?
Prediction: In the semifinals Spain looked as vulnerable as it has since the 2009 Confederations Cup. Italy knocked on the door repeatedly, and should have walked away with an early lead if it could have finished its chances. Brazil has an extra day of rest, plus the home crowd. Don’t think it’s going to matter. Spain will suck the life out the game and drag it into penalties and win there, riding their luck yet again. Guessing this one finishes 1-1 (Spain wins in PKs).
Previously: Female Spain Fan Really Enjoyed Fernando Torres’ Goal vs. Tahiti [GIF]
Previously: Neymar Executed An Epic Flop and Pantomime Combo Against Mexico [GIF]
Previously: Neymar’s Goal Got the Confederations Cup Off to a Cracking Start [Video]