Brazil beat Spain 3-0 in the Confederations Cup final Sunday night in Rio de Janeiro, where both teams hope they will be competing for the World Cup a year from now:
In the stadium that will host the 2014 World Cup final next July 14, Fred put Brazil ahead in the second minute, Neymar doubled the lead in the 44th with his fourth goal of the tournament and Fred added his fifth in the 47th. While there was a crowd of 73,000 in the renovated stadium, outside protesters clashed with riot police on the final night of the two-week prep tournament. . .
In a matchup of new and old powers, the five-time world champion defeated the reigning world and European champion and ended Spain’s 29-game, three-year winning streak in competitive matches. Spain lost a competitive game by three goals for the first time since a 3-0 defeat at Wales in a World Cup qualifier in April 1985.
“We are happy with what we have done over the last few years,” Spain coach Vicente Del Bosque said. “But one loss — you have to look at it, but not overreact to it. We are not content with the loss. But when a team is superior, you have to accept it. It was a deserved defeat.”
Brazil won its third straight Confederations Cup, and is unbeaten in 57 consecutive home competitive matches since 1975. Yet, no reigning Confed Cup winner has gone on to capture the following year’s World Cup.
Spain, which had not lost a competitive game since its 2010 World Cup opener against Switzerland, had a miserable night. Sergio Ramos sent a penalty kick wide in the 55th and defender Gerard Pique was ejected by Dutch referee Bjorn Kuipers with a straight red card for fouling Neymar in the 68th.
“The first minutes and the last minutes of the halves are critical,” Spanish defender Cesar Azpilicueta said. “And they scored their three goals at the beginning and ends of the halves, which is the worst time. Those are the most demoralizing moments.”
Neymar won the Gold Ball award, given to the tournament’s best player, with other awards going to players on both teams:
Spain midfielder Andres Iniesta was awarded the Silver Ball, and Brazilian midfielder Paulinho was the Bronze Ball winner.
Spanish forward Fernando Torres won the Golden Boot award with five goals. Brazil’s Fred also had five goals but had more minutes played, and earned the Silver Boot. Neymar scored four goals and won the Bronze Boot.
Brazilian goalkeeper Julio Cesar won the Golden Glove award.
Meanwhile, thousands of protesters gathered outside the stadium:
Sharp clashes broke out several hundred yards (meters) away from the stadium about 30 minutes before the game began, as a minor scuffle between police and a few protesters escalated.
Officers quickly quashed the unrest, unleashing a barrage of tear gas canisters and stun grenades, scattering the crowd, but not before some protesters retaliated with Molotov cocktails and powerful fireworks. At one point, an officer ran into a nearby gas station and told several people holed up inside they needed to get out or they were “all going to die here!”
Though smaller in size, the march was the latest in a wave of protests that has spread across this continent-sized country in recent weeks. Many are calling the protest movement the biggest seen here in decades, with more than 1 million people having taken to the streets nationwide on just the night of June 20.
The demonstrations have dwindled in size and frequency in recent days as officials from all levels of government have scrambled to calm public anger with woeful public services and a heavy tax burden.
Still, the atmosphere was tense outside Maracana on Sunday. Some clusters of protesters tried to break through the security perimeter police set-up around the stadium, but were pushed back and not able to get past authorities.
The government and soccer officials are worried about whether protests will continue until next year, when they might interfere with the World Cup:
The reality is that, with the World Cup less than a year away, both the local organizers and FIFA are facing a potential crisis if the anti-government sentiment persists.
“The reasons people are out on the street are not going to go away overnight,” said Eliane Milazzo, a 54-year-old high school teacher marching with her daughter and son-in-law. “I know I will continue to go to the streets and so will my family until we see real changes in our everyday lives.”
FIFA President Sepp Blatter was asked about the unrest on Friday, and declined to answer. On Sunday, FIFA was asked about the police using tear gas on demonstrators near the stadium, with some of the fumes wafting onto the grounds of the Maracana.
Again, no comment.
The protests in Brazil started at about the same time as the Confederations Cup tournament, an eight-team event that serves as a dress rehearsal for the following year’s World Cup.
Although the mass demonstrations around the country never really affected the play on the field, it certainly overshadowed some of the games as police and protesters at times clashed violently. They did so again on Sunday. . .
Many people around the world look at Brazil as a sort of party country. The sun and sand of Rio, the samba music, the caipirinhas, it all supposedly adds up to a good time.
But the truth can be quite different. Despite a surging economy and a place in the BRIC countries along with Russia, India and China, the South American nation still has woeful public services and a heavy tax burden.
That won’t change Monday. But what remains to be seen is if the demonstrations will simmer down once the TV cameras that came for the Confederations Cup have shut down and flown home.
For a play-by-play review of the match, continue reading here.