Published June 30, 2013
| Sports Network
Philadelphia, PA – In many circles, the Confederations Cup is not regarded as a major international tournament.
Many players in the tournament's past editions have failed to give the Confederations Cup their full effort and attention in comparison to their output for the World Cup, for which the Confederations Cup serves as an appetizer.
Perhaps that is why no country has won the Confederations Cup and responded to the triumph with a World Cup title the following year. But if ever it was going to happen, Brazil looks the part to make history.
Brazil, the host nation for this year's tournament and the 2014 World Cup, claimed its third successive Confederations Cup title on Sunday, defeating Spain with a resounding 3-0 win at the historic Maracana.
The impressive run of prominence dates back eight years.
The Samba Boys boasted a stacked lineup consisting of Ronaldinho, Kaka and Ronaldo at the 2006 World Cup and looked the favorites to win the competition after dismantling Argentina, 4-1, in the 2005 Confederations Cup final, but they crashed out in Germany in the quarterfinals.
Brazil then claimed the 2009 Confederations Cup in dramatic fashion, surrendering a two-goal lead to the United States in the final only to storm back with three second-half goals. But it failed to spark the five-time World Cup champions in South Africa the following year as they were eliminated by the Netherlands in the quarterfinals.
Despite serving as the host nation for the Confederations Cup this summer, expectations for Brazil were quite low given the lack of experience in its squad. Gone were the cultured attacking talents that ruled the top European club teams for season upon season as the likes of Ronaldinho, Rivaldo, Ronaldo, Robinho and Kaka were replaced by the youth of Neymar, Oscar and Paulinho. Even the aging options at Luiz Felipe Scolari's disposal - Fred and Hulk come to mind - have not been under the scrutiny that comes with playing under the bight lights of Camp Nou or the Bernabeu, something to which their predecessors with the national team had grown quite accustomed.
But Brazil eased out of a potentially tricky group consisting of Japan, Mexico and Italy, scoring nine goals in three matches while conceding just twice. The Brazilians were pushed by Uruguay in the semifinals but showed enough resolve to come away with a 2-1 victory thanks to a late header from Paulinho. Spain, meanwhile, edged Italy in penalties to set up a dream final against the host nation.
It was Brazil's biggest test of the tournament, but it passed with flying yellow-and-white colors.
The Brazilians operated as a cohesive unit, playing the right passes at the right times to dismantle the Spaniards on the counterattack.
Neymar was dangerous virtually every time he received the ball, but also displayed an unselfish quality that the 21-year-old has rarely shown.
Fred was ruthless in front of goal throughout the tournament, taking his chances with great aplomb to finish tied with Fernando Torres atop the Confederations Cup scoring chart with five goals in the competition.
Oscar was deadly with his passing, threading the needle to put Neymar, Fred and Hulk in great positions.
And Paulinho was an unsung hero, going box-to-box throughout Brazil's run to the title to provide support in attack while tracking back to break up the opposition's possession.
Before the start of the tournament, it did not appear to be a vintage Brazil side. Apart from Neymar - who still entered the competition as a relatively unproven commodity - there was a void in attacking flair that has become synonymous with Brazilian football.
But Brazil's ability to collectively dismantle a world-power like Spain proved many skeptics wrong. Some of Brazil's best-ever squads were just as balanced and devoid of egotistical personalities as the one on display at the Maracana on Sunday.
An emphatic statement was made in the 2013 Confederations Cup.
And with a full year for Brazil's national team to gain further experience playing in Europe against the top players in the world on the club side of football, that statement was clear: "Watch out for the host nation next summer."