2013 FIFA Confederations Cup Championship Game: Spain at Brazil

2013 FIFA Confederations Cup Championship Game
Spain at Brazil
Sunday, June 30, 2013, 5:45 pm Eastern, TV: ESPN
Estadio do Maracana – Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
All Odds courtesy of Bookmaker
Betting Line: Brazil Pick -125 / Spain Pick -105
Total: Under 2 1/2 -135 / Over 2 1/2 +105
Three Way Line: Spain +170 / Brazil +145 / Draw +220
(All three wagers include regulation and stoppage time only, not overtime or shootout)

Brazil is a slight favorite at home in the championship game of the 2013 FIFA Confederations Cup against Spain in a battle of soccer royalty.
Brazil is a slight favorite at home in the championship game of the 2013 FIFA Confederations Cup against Spain in a battle of soccer royalty.

Four years ago, Spain was upset by the United States in the semifinals of the 2009 FIFA Confederations Cup in South Africa. Team USA would go on to lose to Brazil in the Championship game. It was the second straight Confed Cup win for Brazil. Spain would win the 2010 World Cup and also the 2012 European Soccer Championship, after also winning Euro 2008. Spain is the first team to win 3 straight major FIFA tournaments and is unbeaten in 29 straight competitive matches dating back to the World Cup in 2010. Spain lost to Switzerland in the opening game of the group stage in 2010.

Now four years later, Spain is looking to win the only trophy missing from their case the Confederations Cup. Both Spain and Brazil made it to the championship game. Even though Brazil has won 2 straight Confederations Cups, they haven’t won the only trophy the team and their passionate fans care about, the World Cup, since 2002. That is an eternity for the five time champs. An aging Brazil team was knocked out in the quarterfinals of the World cup in 2010 by the Netherlands. The humiliating loss caused Brazil to infuse the team with the next generation of talented but untested youngsters.

The kids have been more than alright as Brazil dominated Group A with 3 wins over Japan, Mexico, and Italy by a combined score of 9-2. Spain has also been dominant winning group B by a combined score of 15-1, with wins over Uruguay, Tahiti, and Nigeria. However, Spain used mostly second stringers in a 10-0 massacre of a Tahitian team that featured mostly amateurs.

In the semifinals, both Brazil and Spain took on familiar regional rivals. Brazil beat Uruguay 2-1 on a header from Paulinho at 86 minutes when the game appeared headed to overtime. Spain and Italy  were scoreless through 90 minutes of regulation, and Spain advanced on penalty kicks 7-6.

In the Uruguay-Brazil game Wednesday, the host nation Brazil outshot Uruguay 19-7 including 10-3 in shots on goal. Brazil had 9 corners and 1 free kick and Uruguay had 8 corners and no free kicks. Brazil had possession for 64% of the time and Uruguay had 36%.

In the first half, Uruguay forward Diego Forlan missed a penalty kick on a brilliant save from Brazilian keeper Julio Cesar. Brazilian forward Fred, playing in his home town of Belo Horizonte, opened the scoring just before halftime by kicking in the rebound off a Neymar miss. Uruguay forward Edinson Cavani stole a pass deep in Brazil territory and would score the equalizer 3 minutes after halftime. Neither team would score again until Brazilian midfielder Paulinho headed the ball in on a Neymar corner 86 minutes into the game. That would prove to be the game winner, as Brazil advanced to the final for the third straight Confederations Cup.

In the Italy-Spain game Thursday, the Spanish looked lethargic in the first half against an injury depleted Italian side. Spain had defeated Italy 4-0 in last year’s European Championship. Italy had at least 4 or maybe 5 good scoring chances in the first half but couldn’t capitalize because of some great goalkeeping by Iker Casillas  and some off target shots.

Spain would slow down the game in the second half and take control of the game. Spain had 2 scoring chances early in the second half   but couldn’t put it in the net. The rest of regulation was mostly played in the middle of the field as neither side could crack the defense. Spain did have a free kick late in the game that was punched out of bounds by Italian keeper Gianluigi Buffon. It would have resulted in a corner but the referee blew the whistle for the end of regulation. Both teams hit the post in extra time.

In the shootout after no one could score in regulation or extra time, no one could miss in the penalty kicks. After five perfect kicks by both sides, it came down to sudden death. Both teams also made their sixth kick. In the seventh round, Italian defender Leonardo Bonucci finally missed. Spanish midfielder Jesus Navas buried his to send Spain to the final for the first time.

Spain had 19 shots to Italy’s 13, but Italy had 6 shots on goal and Spain only had 5. La Roja had 7 corners and a free kick, and Gli Azzuri had 6 and 1. Spain had 53% possession and Italy had 47%.

Spain and Brazil are widely considered the best teams in the world, but fans in Argentina and Germany might disagree. The Selecao and La Roja have played 8 times in history, but not since 1999. Brazil leads the series 4-2-2. The last competitive meeting between the teams came in the 1986 World Cup. Spain has not beaten Brazil in a competitive match since the 1934 World Cup. Brazil has not lost a competitive match at home since 1975, and only has one loss in a friendly in 2002 in that time frame.

Spain is led by manager Vicente del Bosque. La Roja will likely use a 4-3-3 attack against Brazil. Spain should be lifted by the return of Cesc Fabregas and Roberto Soldado who missed the Italy match with muscle strains. Xavi Hernandez, Andres Iniesta, Fabregas, David Villa, Fernando Torres, Soldado, Santi Cazorla, Juan Mata, and David Silva are among the best players in the world. Goalkeeper Iker Casillas hadn’t played in 136 days due to injury before this tournament, but has only allowed one goal. Spain doesn’t have any serious injuries right now.

Brazil manager Luiz Felipe Scolari was rehired last year. He led the team to their last World Cup victory in 2002. Scolari will use a 4-2-3-1 formation. Hulk, Oscar, Neymar and Fred can all score at anytime if they get space. Neymar, for whom Barcelona paid a record $75 million dollar transfer fee has been nothing short of spectacular with 3 goals in the tournament. He has scored or assisted on almost all of Brazil’s goals in the tournament. Soccer fans are drooling at the prospect of Neymar and Lionel Messi being on the same line with Barcelona next year. Jo could start in place of Fred. Look for crowd favorite  Lucas to come off the bench if Brazil needs a spark in favor of Oscar. Goalkeeper Julio Cesar is one of the top netminders in the world and kept a clean sheet against Japan and Mexico. Brazil is also relatively healthy.

Something has to give in this match. Which streak will end Sunday evening? Will Brazil end Spain’s unbeaten streak and string of major titles. Will Spain end Brazil’s home unbeaten streak and prevent them from becoming the first team to win 3 straight Confed Cups? One thing is certain though, it will be a highly entertaining match between teams loaded with world class players. Brazil finds a way to win at home but it will be a one goal game. These teams could very well meet again at some point in next year’s World Cup also in Brazil.

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