RIO DE JANEIRO – Five reasons to watch Brazil play Spain on Sunday in the final of the Confederations Cup, a warmup tournament for next year's World Cup:
The 21-year-old Brazilian with the pseudo Mohawk recently completed a move to Barcelona, where next season he will play alongside Lionel Messi and several of the Spanish players he will face Sunday. Neymar scored in each of the team's three group matches as Brazil went 3-0 and he played a part in both Selecao goals in the 2-1 semifinal win over Uruguay. More pressure will be on him to perform not just on Sunday, but next year as Brazil tries to win its sixth World Cup title.
The final will be played at one of the most famous soccer venues in the world, which also will host the World Cup final on July 13 next year. Once one of the largest stadiums in the world, Maracana hosted the final match of the 1950 World Cup, which FIFA says drew 173,850 and other sources list at up to 199,854. Uruguay rallied with a pair of goals in the last 30 minutes to beat Brazil 2-1 and win its second world title, leaving the Selecao still searching for a first. The stadium, which was built ahead of that World Cup and is owned by the state government, is officially named Mario Filho Stadium, after a famous Brazilian journalist. It has been remodeled and now has a capacity of about 78,000.
Almost any time you watch Spain, you're watching soccer at its best. After years of underachieving, La Furia Roja won the 2010 World Cup and the 2008 and 2012 European Championships, the first team to win those three major titles in succession. Xavi Hernandez and Andres Iniesta dominate midfield play, and Spain almost always has a huge advantage in possession with the "tiki-taka" style taken from Barcelona. With Real Madrid midfielder Xabi Alonso recovering from back surgery, coach Vicente del Bosque has switched to a formation similar to Barcelona's 4-3-3.
Brazil playing at home
Brazil invented "O Joga Bonito (The Beautiful Game)." Ever since Brazil was awarded the right to host the 2014 World Cup six years ago, there has been a huge amount of pressure on the team. And the Confederations Cup final will serve as a big test to see if the young team is ready to unseat Spain.
Preparing for the World Cup
The Confederations Cup is designed to test six of the 12 stadiums to be used for next year's tournament along with airports and transportation systems. Sunday's final can be used as an introduction to the big event, the 32-nation spectacle next year.