In a thrilling semifinals finale, Spain prevailed over a Mario Balotelli-less Italian side following a 7-6 penalty shootout to secure a trip to the Confederations Cup final.
Unfortunately for Spain, it’s going to take a similarly superb effort to stave off the tournament hosts to win a trophy.
Brazil bested a fierce Uruguay squad on Wednesday in a fantastic 2-1 decision, led by Paulinho and his 86th-minute header to seal the deal.
The semifinals were everything fans would have hoped for from four of the best international teams in the world. Can the championship match live up to the hype?
Let’s take a look at the vitals for Spain vs. Brazil and highlight what to watch for in the Confederations Cup final.
Where: Estadio do Maracana; Rio De Janeiro, Brazil
When: Sunday, June 30, at 6 p.m. EDT
Television/Streaming: ESPN (blacked out on WatchESPN)
How They Got Here
Brazil have been absolutely tremendous throughout the tournament, as was to be expected from the pre-tournament favorites and host nation. There hasn’t been a team capable of slowing the Brazilians to this point, though Uruguay posted a valiant effort in the semifinals.
In the group stage, the hosts tallied clean sheets over both Japan (3-0) and Mexico (2-0) before pinning four goals on Italy in a 4-2 victory—the same Italian side that held Spain scoreless until their penalty shootout.
Led by 21-year-old phenom Neymar (who won Man of the Match honors in each of the team’s three group stage matches), Brazil have proved they are the best team in the tournament to this point. They’ll have one more challenge on Sunday.
Like Brazil, Spain boast a tremendous amount of firepower up front and elite talent at nearly every position. While Tahiti were dominated by all three of their Group B opponents in the opening round, Spain were the side to provide the exclamation point with a record-setting 10-0 victory.
In that match, Fernando Torres single-handedly destroyed the Tahitian side with four goals, followed by David Villa with three. Spain won’t have the same attacking success against Brazil, but they proved they do have the legs to make this a difficult battle for Brazil’s back line.
If the semifinals were any indication, football fans will be in for a treat Sunday evening. The two best teams in the tournament remain undefeated and have one more chance to prove their mettle in the championship clash.
Prediction: Brazil 3, Spain 2
While Spain’s semifinals contest provided a thrilling finish, they didn’t appear ready to play in the first half. If they show that same lethargy against Brazil in the final, Spain shouldn’t expect a similar finish.
But the Spanish side have looked mostly fantastic throughout the tournament, and there’s no reason to expect anything less than a tremendous match on Sunday. Provided both teams are focused and prepared, this contest should come down to the wire.
Brazil have an advantage playing in front of their home crowd on an extra day of rest, though. All things being equal, those could be the deciding factors.
Look for Torres and Neymar to set the tone with an early goal for their sides and create a terrific tempo for the remainder of the match, with Brazil coming out on top with a stunner in the final minutes.