Brazil make themselves World Cup contenders
Published: 07.07.13 / Written by: David Gold
Brazil’s 3-0 win over Spain in the final of the Confederations Cup was hugely impressive, if only for the sheer spirit and determination of the hosts.
From the off they were at the world and European champions and struck in the opening moments of the game through the irrepressible Fred. Neymar was a constant threat, and Spain could not find their normal passing rhythm against the Brazilians.
The result and the manner of the victory will make Brazil real contenders to win their sixth World Cup on home soil next year. The Selecão thundered to victory on home soil with five consecutive wins, none of them against easy opponents. Japan, Mexico and Italy are all very good sides, Uruguay are typically dogged and boast world class talent in their ranks, whilst Spain are Spain. So that the Brazilians won so convincingly sets down a huge marker.
There are important caveats to consider though. For one thing Brazil had significant physical advantages. Three of their key players in the tournament were Fred, Neymar and Paulinho. Fred and Neymar provided the cutting edge up front, Paulinho the bustling and harrying in midfield that overwhelmed their opposition and kept their defence tight. But all three benefited from the fact that the Brazilian season has barely got underway – the amount of football they have played of late is nowhere near that of the Spaniards or Italy. This time next year Neymar will have experienced a gruelling European season with Barcelona. Brazil may play football all year round, with their state championships, but the standard is low and there is not the same level of pressing as there is in the tiring European leagues.
Paulinho will have played for Tottenham in the Premier League and Europa League, perhaps the most exhausting combination imaginable. Fred will play for Fluminense still in Brazil, which is a positive, but he is getting older, and his role was to take advantage of the chances created by his team mates. If they are not doing that next year, he is an irrelevance.
Also the Spanish had played a day later than Brazil in their semi final, in the stifling heat of Fortaleza, whilst Brazil had a semi against Uruguay in comparatively cool temperatures. Spain went to extra time, whilst the Brazilians were well rested after their normal time win. There were significant physical advantages for Brazil, which could be seen as Spain struggled to press in their usual way.
There are still issues surrounding this Brazilian side though. They remain functional in respects – Luis Gustavo and Paulinho is not a creative and incisive midfield – it is a combative one. Brazil’s creativity comes from out wide, with Dani Alves and Marcelo pushing up, Neymar and Oscar seeking to create further forward. Brazil may have beaten the Spanish, but one wonders what would have happened against the Spain team of two years ago. Brazil would probably have lost.
Issues clearly remain for this Brazil side. They remain unconvincing despite the emphatic nature of their Confederations Cup win. But you could see that this is a team moulded into a genuine group by Luiz Felipe Scolari, whose big game nerve appears strong, with winners through the side – Thiago Silva, Julio Cesar, Paulinho and Neymar. They may just thrive on the home pressure in a year’s time – but nothing can be taken for granted.