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Sunday, 30 June 2013

Defending champions Brazil face World Cup winners Spain in final

The Confederations Cup has the final nearly everyone wanted: A long-awaited matchup between world champion Spain and host Brazil. The most dominant team in recent years and the most successful team of all time will meet on Sunday at the Maracana Stadium.

It will be the first time the traditional football nations meet in more than a decade. Brazil hope a victory will help them regain their status as a global powerhouse after recent struggles, while Spain want to show that not even the five-time world champions can put a dent in their supremacy.

With more than 70,000 Brazilian fans packing the iconic venue, the world and European champions will be put to the test by a reinvigorated Brazil team led by World Cup-winning coach Luiz Felipe Scolari and young striker Neymar. "It's the match everyone wanted to happen," the 21-year-old Neymar said. "The entire world wanted it and everybody will be watching it."

The hosts will be trying to win their third-straight title in the World Cup warm-up competition, and fourth overall, while Spain will be looking for its fourth major trophy in five years. "We're going to face up to them," Spain coach Vicente Del Bosque told FIFA. "Brazil have won five World Cups and three Confederations Cups and they'll be playing at the Maracana in front of their own fans. For us it's a dream game."

Brazil won their fifth World Cup title in 2002, but recently it's Spain that has been the dominant team in international football, capturing the last two European championships and the 2010 World Cup. Brazil were eliminated in the quarter-finals in the last two World Cups and hasn't won a significant title since the 2009 Confederations Cup in South Africa.

"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 haven't lost in 26 matches, since a 1-0 loss against England in London in 2011. Brazil struggled after Scolari returned to the national team, winning only one of its first six matches. But they reach the final on a five-match winning streak and the passionate support of its fans.

"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 edging Uruguay in the semi-finals. Spain defeated the Uruguayans in their opener, then routed Tahiti and beat Nigeria before getting past Italy in a penalty shootout 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 are, but Brazil are going through a sensational moment and is full of confidence." Brazil is also more rested. While the host haven't played since Wednesday, Spain endured extra time 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. Both coaches will have all of their top players available for the match at the renovated Maracana. Four players who will be in Sunday's final were nominated for the Golden Ball award handed to the best players at the Confederations Cup: Brazil's Neymar and Paulinho and Spain's Andres Iniesta and Sergio Ramos.


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