Neymar lives up to hype as Brazil buries Spain
Updated: 2013-07-02 06:20
By Agencies in Rio de Janeiro (China Daily)
Brazil's Neymar lifts the trophy after winning the Confederations Cup final between Brazil and Spain at Maracana Stadium in Rio de Janeiro on Sunday. Bruno Magalhaes / Associated Press
Host squad sends message by capturing Confederations Cup
Any doubts that Brazil is a serious contender for next year's World Cup were swept away by a majestic 3-0 victory over world champion Spain as it won the Confederations Cup in front of an ecstatic crowd at Maracana Stadium on Sunday.
Inspired by Neymar and Fred in attack, David Luiz at the back and the indefatigable Paulinho thundering around the midfield, Brazil ended Spain's record run of 29 unbeaten competitive matches and brought back memories of its glory days with its fifth straight win of the tournament.
It began with a scrappy goal from Fred after some shocking Spanish defending in the second minute, went 2-0 ahead when Neymar lashed an unstoppable angled left-foot shot past Iker Casillas a minute before halftime, and wrapped up the match and the title when Fred plundered a third with another angled shot two minutes after the restart.
A crucial stop from Luiz after 41 minutes was vital to the victory, however.
With Brazil 1-0 ahead and Spain beginning to finally make an impact, the world champion looked set to equalize with a Pedro shot that had beaten goalkeeper Julio Cesar.
But with the ball about to cross the line, Luiz sprinted from nowhere, stuck out a leg, and diverted it away for a memorable clearance.
"I owed that one to Julio Cesar after giving away the penalty against Uruguay," he said.
"I managed to pay back the debt and help the team."
Three minutes later, Neymar scored at the other end and Spain was on its way to its first competitive defeat for three years.
Spain, which has dominated the world scene for the past five years with two European titles and the World Cup, was swept aside.
It suffered its biggest competitive defeat since losing 3-0 to Wales in a European qualifier 37 years ago.
Sergio Ramos, who scored in the semifinal penalty shootout victory over Italy on Thursday, fired wide with a poor penalty after 54 minutes.
Worse was to follow when fellow defender Gerard Pique was sent off for a lunge on his new Barcelona teammate Neymar, who again stole the show and was named player of the tournament.
Brazil went into the tournament with an indifferent set of results following the re-appointment of 2002 World Cup-winning coach Luiz Felipe Scolari last November, with just two wins, four draws and a defeat from his opening seven matches.
The debate had already began over whether he was the right man for the job but his team provided an endorsement with wins over Japan, Mexico, Italy, Uruguay and Spain.
Sunday's performance was the best of them all, with Fred's second-minute goal lifting the crowd and Neymar's strike raising them higher still.
Although the performance was spellbinding, Neymar, among other players, stressed Brazil still had a long way to go before securing an unprecedented sixth world title.
"Let's keep calm, let's keep our feet on the ground," he said. "We did very well and we are on the right track.
"We needed this time to train, we get to know each other and to work together and we are much better than we were."
Julio Cesar said: "There is a lot still to happen, there's a year to go until the World Cup, but I really wish that this was the World Cup. But we are delighted and it was an amazing experience."
One explanation for Spain's poor performance was its exhaustion after the grueling, energy-sapping semifinal win over Italy in the heat of Fortaleza on Thursday.
And while it is too early to make Brazil World Cup favorite it is also too early to write Spain off.
"We had a bad night," Casillas said. "But anyone thinking this team is finished should think again."
Spain's coach Vicente del Bosque said Brazil was far better on the day - Spain looked exhausted and out for the count once Fred sniped a second-minute opener for the host.
"They deserved it, and sometimes it is important to lose," said del Bosque.
"Of course we are not happy but we must analyze where we went wrong. Yet our record is cause for optimism ... we have good players and a defined style of play."
(China Daily 07/02/2013 page24)