It was the dream matchup that soccer fans had been hoping for: The best team in the world against the best in history. And Sunday’s Confederations Cup final in Rio de Janeiro’s massive Maracana Stadium didn’t disappoint, with Brazil routing Spain, 3-0.
Goals by Fred two minutes into the first half and two minutes into the second half, sandwiched around a score by Neymar in the 44th minute, gave Brazil its third consecutive title in the World Cup warmup competition and its fourth overall.
But if that's the good news here's the bad: Brazil has never followed a Confederations Cup win with victory in the World Cup, losing to France in the 1998 final and falling in the quarterfinals in the last two tournaments.
Spain, meanwhile, finished third in the 2009 Confederations Cup and rebounded to win the World Cup a year later.
Sunday's match was almost as one-sided as the score. Although Spain dominated possession for wide swaths of the game and actually outshot Brazil, the South Americans controlled the midfield while its back line shut down Spain's crosses. And when Brazil won the ball back, even deep in its own end, it pushed the ball up the field quickly, stretching Spain's midfielders.
For Spain, the dominant team in international soccer over the last seven years, winner of the last two European Championships as well as the last Word Cup, the loss was its first in 27 matches dating to a 1-0 loss to England in London in 2011. For Brazil, whose five World Cup titles are the most ever, the win over Spain in the two countries' first meeting in more than a decade ran its unbeaten streak to 11.
“It’s the match everyone wanted to happen,” Neymar, who will play next season in Spain, told reporters before the final. “The entire world wanted it.”
Added Spain Manager Vicente Del Bosque: “For us it’s a dream game.”
But it quickly turned into a nightmare with Fred putting the hosts ahead to stay in the second minute.
After a cross by Hulk intended for Neymar touched off a wild scramble in front of Spain's goal, Fred, who was laying on his back inside the six-yard box, deftly lifted the ball over goalkeep Iker Casillas and into the net.
Spain had a chance to tie the score in the 41st minute when Pedro, coming in alone on the right wing, got the ball past keeper Julio Cesar. But defender David Lutz sprinted in at the far post to make a sliding save at the goal line.
Two minutes later a left-footed rocket from Neymar from inside the box doubled Brazil's lead. It was his fourth goal in five games.
Then two minutes after the break Fred took a feed from Neymar and found the back of the net from just inside the box, giving him multiple goals in two of his last four matches.
Spain's best chance, aside from the Pedro miss, came in the 55th minute. But Sergio Ramos missed a penalty kick, pushing it wide left of the goal.
Ten minutes later Gerard Pique was given a red card for a hard challenge on a streaking Neymar, leaving Spain to finish the match shorthanded.