THE FINAL DAY REPLAYED - Spain’s all-time greatest challengers were expected to add the FIFA Confederations Cup trophy to their enviable collection at the Maracana. Brazil didn’t just rip up the script, they did so with a performance that would have made proud the 1958 campeões of Garrincha and Pele, ‘The Beautiful Team’ of 1970 and the Zico-headlined thrill machine of ’82.
It took just two minutes for Fred to make the Maracana decibel levels comparable to a NASA base on space-shuttle launch with a predator's goal. Midway through the half David Luiz somehow rocketed his big, burly frame back to make what was, surely, one of the greatest clearances in history (Pedro, whose shot he denied, even jogged up to the Chelsea centre-back at half-time to shower him in praise!). Neymar made it 2-0 on the stroke of the break, his vicious strike into the roof of the net, with his weaker left foot, further vindicating why Barcelona recently paid €57m for him. Fred competed a 3-0 victory two minutes after the restart, though that wasn’t the end of the misery for Spain, for whom Sergio Ramos missed a penalty and Gerard Pique was sent off for bringing down Neymar as he raced through on goal.
Earlier, in the battle for bronze, an Edinson Cavani brace – including a handsome free-kick – proved in vain as Italy beat Uruguay on penalties following a pulsating 2-2 draw. The principal headline-maker was Gianluigi Buffon. On a day in which he played his 133rd international, moving just three behind Azzurri record-holder Fabio Cannavaro, the 35-year-old goalkeeper made three saves in the shootout.
Brazil and Uruguay weren’t the only winners on the night. So, too, was everybody heading to the South American country for next year’s FIFA World Cup. For, once again, the futebol-impassioned Brazilians fans made for extraordinary atmospheres to which words simply won’t do justice. So, if you haven’t already, start making plans to be part of the greatest event in sporting history next year.
Uruguay 2-2 Italy (Italy win 3-2 on penalties)
Brazil 3-0 Spain
What it means…
Brazil will kick off the FIFA World Cup on 12 June 2014 as FIFA Confederations Cup holders, having won the competition for a fourth time. When they conquered the ‘Festival of Champions’ in 1997, 2005 and 2009, A Seleção slipped up at its big brother. Can Luiz Felipe Scolari’s men arrest that statistic?
Goal of the day
Alessandro Diamanti has long been renowned for scoring spectacular free-kicks, such as the extreme curler he netted for Bologna against Inter Milan and the one from fully 35 yards which helped I Rossoblù edge Atlanta six months ago. Had Italy’s set-piece emperor Andrea Pirlo, who served up one of his dead-ball specialities in their 2-1 win over Mexico in the group stage, participated in the third-place play-off, however, Diamanti wouldn’t have been afforded the chance to step up when Cesare Prandelli’s team were awarded a 73rd-minute free-kick, 25 yards from goal. Diamanto made the most of his injured squad-mate’s injury, though, curling the ball up and over the ball and down into the bottom corner with lordly class.
Stat of the day
24 - Brazil continued their remarkable unbeaten FIFA Confederations Cup record when taking the lead. They have won 22 and drawn two of all the games in which they have gone in front in the history of the competition.
Quote of the day
“Brazil gave a football lesson. They put on a show. They knocked the ball about, attacked at the right times. Neymar makes a big difference and with Fred, Brazil once again has a No9. The Seleção deserve congratulations,” Ronaldo, Brazil football legend.
347 days: that’s what fans have to wait until another international football tournament begins in Brazil. And if the quality of football and the indescribable atmosphere inside the stadiums at this FIFA Confederations Cup were signs of what’s to come, the 20th edition of the FIFA World Cup could be its best yet.
Tweet of the day
O Rei will be hoping for more Maracana celebrations in just over a year's time.
Congratulations Brazil. I love my country! God bless Brazil forever. pic.twitter.com/6KGYQqjGgI
— Pelé (@Pele) July 1, 2013