FIFA Confederations Cup: Brazil 3 Spain 0
By Football News
Brazil have made a huge statement ahead of next year's World Cup, demolishing Spain 3-0 to claim their third straight Confederations Cup title.
In an ominous performance, Brazil showed they will be genuine contenders at the 2014 World Cup with Fred scoring either side of Neymar's thumping goal as the hosts handed Spain their first competitive loss since the 2010 World Cup.
Brazil started in full flight in Rio de Janeiro on Sunday and stunned the reigning world and European champions after just 90 seconds when Fred hit the back of the net after a cross from Hulk.
While the striker failed to get his head on the cross, Spanish defenders Gerard Pique and Alvaro Arbeloa failed to clear the danger and as the ball hit the ground, Fred, who was lying on his back, scooped it over Iker Casillas.
Neymar doubled Brazil's lead with a minute remaining in the first half, opening up Spain's defence with Oscar before belting the ball past Casillas, while Fred effectively ended the contest just after half-time when he scored his second.
It was Spain's first competitive loss by three goals or more since a World Cup qualifier in 1985 against Wales and they completed the game with 10 men after Pique was sent off in the 68th minute.
A packed Maracana produced a brilliant pre-match teaser with a rousing rendition of the Brazilian national anthem, which drowned out the pre-recorded version, while the players belted the song out as one with aggression and passion.
The wave of sound continued as the game began and after Hulk looked set to break away and score with 30 seconds on the clock, only to be pulled back because a free-kick had been played too quickly, Brazil took the lead in the second minute.
After Fred's clever opening goal, Brazil continued to press with Neymar, who had plenty of joy against Spain's right-back Arbeloa in the first half, setting up Oscar to shoot just wide, while Paulinho's 13th-minute chip almost caught out Casillas.
Spain were uncharacteristically struggling to play the ball out of defence due to Brazil's frenzied pressing but the reigning world and European champions finally created a decent goal-scoring chance in the 19th minute when Andres Iniesta forced Julio Cesar into a low save.
As the half wore on, Spain started to gain more possession but Brazil defended stoutly and were scintillating on the counter-attack with Neymar and Oscar both fouled as they sprinted forward, while Fred wasted a gilt-edged chance on the half-hour mark, shooting straight at Casillas when through on goal.
The visitors were denied what looked to be a certain goal with four minutes remaining before half-time as Pedro's low shot was cleared off the line by a sliding David Luiz and Brazil made Spain pay in the 44th minute when Neymar made it 2-0.
In a bid to quell Neymar's influence, Spain head coach Vicente Del Bosque replaced Arbeloa with Cesar Azpilicueta at half-time but it made little difference in the 47th minute when Fred notched his brace.
In an almost carbon-copy of the first half, Brazil caught out Spain early with Hulk bursting forward before passing towards Neymar, who let the ball run for Fred to score his fifth goal of the Confederations Cup.
Spain's best chance to spark a comeback came nine minutes after the break when Jesus Navas, who had just come on for Juan Mata, won a penalty for a trip by Marcelo but Ramos' spot-kick hit the post and went wide.
It got even worse for Spain with 22 minutes remaining when Pique brought down Neymar and referee Bjorn Kuipers showed the 26-year-old what might be considered a harsh red card for denying a clear goal-scoring opportunity as the last defender.
But although Brazil continued to push for a fourth goal, they failed to beat Casillas again and had to settle for a three-goal victory at the venue which will host next year's World Cup final in 54 weeks' time.