Brazil’s Win Changes the Game

How Brazil’s Confederations Cup victory shifts the tone of world soccer
by Herb Scribner   |   Monday, July 01, 2013

Confederations Cup, Brazil 2013 - Courtesy of FIFA

For about 4 years, it’s been about Spain.

The Spanish have been praised for their tiki-taka style and discipline on the pitch. And it wasn’t undeserved, as the pass masters dominated world soccer by winning the 2010 FIFA World Cup and the 2008 and 2012 UEFA Euros.

But last night’s display of brilliance by Brazil reestablished a bit of order in the world soccer realm, if only for a moment. The Brazilians, hosts of next year’s World Cup and 5-time World Cup champions, dominated the Spaniards, winning 3-0 in the Confederations Cup Final.

In no recent major tournament have we seen Spain so disrupted as we did against Brazil and Italy in the last 2 Confederations Cup games. The artistry and quality of tiki-taka was trashed and torn apart.

Unlike Italy, Brazil found a way to not only secure a win, but do it emphatically. The Canarinho didn’t win possession numbers, but they pressured and disrupted the small passing game that Spain so constantly depends on. Those little touches and the calming presence were rocked and shaken, turning the usually-poised and confident Spain into a frazzled mess.

Spain is due an off-day, especially after going 120 minutes plus penalties a few days before against the Italians. Shouldering the weight of being the world’s best will surely give way and a collapse will ensue for at least a game. This was Spain’s biggest competitive fall since the team’s dominance began, but it doesn’t mean in any way that La Roja is going to disappear long term.

Unlucky moments cost Spain greatly in last night’s final. Fred’s opening goal for the Selecao was unanticipated and unusual (though extraordinary) and Sergio Ramos’ missed penalty kick, though maybe anticipated given his history from the spot, was luckless, too. Just when Spain showed spells of its usual style, things fell apart.

Brazil’s win changes the game in a few different ways. Most notably, it shows that Spain can be beaten if the right strategy is employed: Break up those tight passes, close the space, pressure and pray you have defenders like David Luiz and a goalkeeper like Julio Cesar.

Critics were weighing down on Brazil and its players for their lack of form, mostly due to the team’s lack of competitive national team matches within the last 4 years. Being the host of next year’s World Cup, Brazil hasn’t needed to go through qualifiers, which has limited its international play.

Still, Brazil went 2-1-4 in 2013 prior to the Confederations Cup – the solitary loss being a 2-1 shelling by England, which isn’t the result the world’s best should be giving up. But a win over Spain, and a commanding one at that, puts pressure back on Spain to respond, limiting the overhaul of questions Brazil once faced.

Even Brazil’s star, Neymar, faced immense pressure going into the Confederations Cup. His €49 million signing for Barcelona in June was met with criticism and questions about whether or not the former Santos man deserved a spot among Europe’s best. His flashes of brilliance and sensational strike – not to mention his maturity on the field – last night silenced the critics, at least temporarily.

In the case of the common fan, things have changed, too. Spain was the face of soccer for the past 4 years, and still will be until the team is dethroned. And while La Roja is still a favorite to repeat and win the World Cup, fans may not see Spain as the dominating force it once was.

Brazil’s bandwagon will build and Spain’s will dismantle, as La Furia unwillingly will lease the haterwagon. A cloud of doubt has built over Spain now, which is the price you pay for being a legendary national team that will stand the test of time.

Spain is mortal, just like the rest of us. Spain will reassess and reconfigure its ways. The World Cup is less than a year away, but it’s plenty of time for Spain to recapture the hearts and minds of the soccer world. The team will have plenty of chances to do so, as European World Cup Qualifying is still underway and Spain is caught in a tight battle with France for the head of the group.

Brazil can hang back and soak up the glory this trophy brings. The Brazilians are no strangers to this competition’s cup, having won the past 3 Confederations Cups. A win like this can slightly brighten the blemish that the protests and chaos have brought to the country.

It was the dream final we all wanted, and a result that many might not have expected. Brazil can now claim it has beaten the world’s greatest team in high-class fashion and brought Spain back down to Earth. Humanized and possibly humbled, Spain will look for another chance to reaffirm its reputation.


UMass Amherst
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FC Barcelona
SN managing editor and award-winning journalist, Herb has always been known as "The Soccer Guy" wherever he goes. He's a leftback in most outdoor and indoor leagues. He also writes for Deseret News National.