Spurned on by a loud and passionate crowd, Brazil hassled and challenged Spain all over the pitch. Spain were unable to play the ball out from the back, and their midfielders did not have the time to put together their usual Tiki-taka is a style of play. As a result, Spain turned the ball over a lot in their 3rd of the field, putting a lot of pressure on a suspect defense. And that defense wilted the pressure.
That is the third time that Spain’s midfield triumvirate of Busquets, Xavi and Iniesta have been overrun by a top quality side. Bayern Munich dismantled Barcelona in the Champions League last season and Brazil did the same today. Xavi looks a shadow of the player that dominated Europe two years ago, while Iniesta looks tired. Fortunately, Spain have ready made replacements in Thiago and Isco, from their European U21 winning side ready to step in.
As for Brazil, their performance throughout the tournament answered a lot of questions. Could Neymar love up the hype? Yes. Did Brazil have a proven goalscorer? Yes. Could the team harness the crowd’s energy in a positive way? Was Luiz Felipe Scolari still up to the job? Yes.
Coming into the Confederation Cup, one of the knocks on Luiz Felipe Scolari was his lack of tactical nuance. But he drew up a perfect tactical plan against Spain, and his team executed it to perfection, led by Paulinho and Gustavo in the center of the park.
Neymar has won the Golden Ball award as the best player of the Confederations Cup, scoring in four of Brazil’s five games, including one against Brazil. Once you get past the diving, he is a fantastic talent and it will be really interesting to see how he develops at Barcelona next season.
A lot of commentators are now making Brazil favourites to win the World Cup next summer. But don’t write Spain off. Yes they lost 3-0 to Brazil, but when the score was still 1-0, David Luiz made a remarkable clearance off the goal line, Ramos missed a penalty and Julio Cesar made two or three terrific saves. If any of them had gone in, how would Brazil and the crowd have handled the adversity?