There are many what-if moments in football. What if the Munich air disaster never happened, would Manchester United have more European Cups? What if Brazil 1970 faced Spain 2008-13? What if Barcelona had appointed Jose Mourinho instead of Pep Guardiola? What if Cuneyt Cakir didn’t send Nani off earlier this year against Real Madrid? Thankfully, one massive what-if moment has been avoided. Spain, the World and double European champions possessing the greatest side in history, against Brazil, the most prestigious national team in the world. So far, World football has missed out, but on July 1, 2013 at the Maracana in Rio, in the Confederations Cup final, we will finally get what we all have been fantasizing about for years. It promises to be brilliant, but it will be 2 very, very different national teams and ideologies.
Brazil are the traditional major entertainers on the world stage. With 5 times as many World Cups as La Furia Roja, and with a history of having Pele, Ronaldinho, Rivaldo and Kaka in their teams, they are very much the game’s poster team. However they rely on individuality, with Neymar the overwhelming hope for the competition and a side that relies heavily on brilliant moments from its players, rather than a cohesive style, like Spain. People in the country have been stunned watching Spain’s immense fluidity and tiki-taka has been like a new Beautiful Game to the Brazilians, unlike any they’ve ever seen. Spain possess many world-class talents, some of the greatest ever like Xavi, Iniesta and Casillas, but there is no Messi, no Ronaldo, no Ibrahimovic. It’s a team that lacks that overwhelming attacking talent, but they still remain near-invincible in major tournaments. Their cohesiveness will never be equaled in today’s world of players playing abroad and international teams meeting 2 days before a match and leaving the following day. This is a game in which Spain will hold the ball, spread it around, while Brazil will hope for magic from Neymar, Oscar or Fred.
Luiz Felipe Scolari has done one hell of a job at this tournament. He has brought out the best in Neymar, organized the team and got them peaking at the right time, traits similar to the ones that won the 2002 World Cup. He has kept expectations relatively low (barely possible at a home World Cup
for the Selecao) and has ensure no one’s getting carried away. In Thiago Silva he has the world’s best defender alongside the much-improved David Luiz and by including Paulinho and Luiz Gustavo he has allowed Marcelo and Dani Alves to bomb forward from full-back. What I want is to see him drop Hulk in favour of Lucas Moura, with the PSG player quicker and a more exciting prospect in my opinion This is an in-form and highly motivated Brazil team, but one still filled with errors. Vicente Del Bosque, on the other hand, has just carried on the good work from the past, with his abandonment of the double pivot the major change in the team. Spain should bring Javi Martinez in for the game in Rio- he provides physical strength and can help on set-pieces. Against Italy, they struggled for possession, something so un-Spanish it sounds weird to say (only 54%!). Del Bosque must also start Jesus Navas to pin Marcelo and Alves back, with the 2 full-backs key to the game. Del Bosque can consider playing without a striker, as Brazil’s intense pressing likely to mean more Spanish representation in midfield. With a plethora of talent in reserve (Mata, Cazorla, Villa, Torres, Fabregas) he knows he can always make a change.
Line Ups (for me):
* Brazil: Cesar, Alves, Silva, Luiz, Marcelo, Paulinho, Gustavo, Neymar, Oscar, Lucas, Fred.
* Spain: Casillas, Arbeloa, Pique, Ramos, Alba, Martinez, Xavi, Iniesta, Navas, Pedro, Fabregas.
While this is a good Brazil side, this is one hell of a Spanish side. I expect Spain to give Brazil a lesson in football, and win comfortably, in my opinion 3-1.