Photo: Brazil v Spain
Brazil, led by 21-year-old phenom Neymar, reasserted its place atop world soccer with a stunning 3-0 shellacking of Spain in the final of the Confederations Cup.
Brazil stormed out to a 1-0 lead just two minutes into Sunday’s match when Spain’s defensemen failed to clear a cross from Hulk and allowed Fred, who had fallen to the ground, to fire the ball into the net at point-blank range past a tentative Iker Casillas.
Spain’s players appeared rattled by the early deficit, as well as by the suffocating pressure of their opponent and the joyous celebration by the more than 70,000 fans packed inside Rio de Janeiro’s iconic Maracana Stadium.
Brazil continued to look to attack and Spain needed two outstanding saves in the 12th and 32th minutes by Casillas, who thwarted scoring opportunities by Paulinho and Fred, respectively, to keep the score close.
Spain lacked defensive cohesiveness in the middle of the field and Brazil took advantage with a series of attacks that finally bore fruit again just before halftime, when Neymar gave his squad a 2-0 lead with a powerful left-footed strike into the roof of the net.
Shortly after intermission, Brazil capped off its lopsided victory with a third goal at the 47-minute mark.
More lackadaisical defense by Spain was the culprit, as Fred broke free down the left side and beat Casillas with a precision strike just inside the far goalpost.
Spain then was forced to play much of the second half shorthanded after defenseman Gerard Pique was sent off for a foul in the 68th minute on Neymar, who will be the Spaniard’s teammate next season at FC Barcelona.
Neymar, who has played until now for Santos in the Brazilian league, was awarded the golden ball for player of the tournament.
The victory over the defending World Cup champions and two-time defending European Champions gave Brazil its third consecutive Confederations Cup title and did nothing less than alter the landscape of world soccer.
Coming a year before the next World Cup, which will also be played in Brazil, it cast serious doubt on Spain’s chances of defending its title.