RIO DE JANEIRO
The crowd at Maracana Stadium was noisy, hoping for and maybe even anticipating a triumph by Brazil.
The Selecao rewarded the fans with a comprehensive victory over the best national team of the 21st century, an ego-boosting 3-0 smothering of world champion Spain in the Confederations Cup final on Sunday night.
But Brazil is focusing on the really big prize: the World Cup that it hosts next year.
“We know that the tournament that we will be playing next year will be a lot more difficult,” Brazil coach Luiz Felipe Scolari said. “Now we have more confidence. That’s what we needed.”
In the stadium that will host the 2014 World Cup final next July 14, Fred put Brazil ahead in the second minute, Neymar doubled the lead in the 44th with his fourth goal of the tournament and Fred added his fifth in the 47th. While there was a crowd of 73,000 in the renovated stadium, outside protesters clashed with riot police on the final night of the two-week prep tournament.
“Brazil has shown to the world that this is the Brazilian national team and that we must be respected,” said 21-year-old Neymar, awarded the Golden Ball as the tournament’s top player. “I think that today we had a great victory against the best team of the world, with some of the best players in the world.”
In a matchup of new and old powers, the five-time world champion defeated the reigning world and European champion and ended Spain’s 29-game, three-year winning streak in competitive matches.
“We are happy with what we have done over the last few years,” Spain coach Vicente Del Bosque said. “But one loss — you have to look at it, but not overreact to it. We are not content with the loss. But when a team is superior, you have to accept it. It was a deserved defeat.”
Brazil won its third straight Confederations Cup and has not lost a competitive home match since 1975. Yet, no reigning Confed Cup winner has gone on to capture the following year’s World Cup.
Spain had not lost a competitive game since its 2010 World Cup opener.