Brazil crowned Confederations Cup champions

Brazil humbled the world and European champions Spain with a crushing 3-0 win in the Confederations Cup final, ending their opponents’ three-year record run of 29 unbeaten competitive matches

Two goals from Fred, one either side of a stunning left-footed shot from Neymar, gave next year’s World Cup hosts their fifth straight win in the competition as they clinched the trophy for the third time in a row.

Playing effective and assertive football, Brazil steamrolled over Spain in front of 78,000 fans at the Maracana. With this victory, Brazil sent a message to all its rivals: under Luis Felipe Scolari, the host country will be a strong contender for the World Cup title in 2014.

Brazil gave a raucous crowd a dream start as with just over a minute on the clock, Fred showed superb presence of mind as in trying to meet Hulk’s cross he was buffeted by two defenders. The ball rebounded off Neymar and Spain full-back Alvaro Arbeloa and, flat on his face, Fred managed to improvise and poke the ball past Iker Casillas.

Spain’s goalkeeper was almost caught out by Paulinho’s 13th-minute lob, backpedalling to palm the ball off the line before falling gratefully on the loose ball.

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Arbeloa was then booked for a cynical pull on Neymar. The Barcelona new boy would have had a clear run on goal, sparking Brazilian claims for a red card despite the challenge taking place in the centre circle. That sparked the second flashpoint of the early exchanges, with players from both teams having earlier squared off after Fernando Torres’ foul on Marcelo.

Brazil custodian Julio Cesar tipped Andres Iniesta’s long-range curler away from goal, Torres heading the resulting corner just wide of the near post.

Ramos was booked for hauling down Oscar on the edge of the box, with Hulk blazing wide from the free-kick, while Fred spurned a glorious chance when teed up by Neymar. David Luiz saved Brazil with a remarkable sliding goal-line clearance after a fluent Spanish break ended with Pedro curling the ball past Cesar. It was a timely intervention as Neymar doubled Brazil’s lead a minute before half-time, hammering the ball inside Casillas’ near post after exchanging passes with Oscar on the edge of the box.

Cesar Azpilicueta replaced the hapless Arbeloa at half-time but Brazil quickly extended their advantage. Hulk and Neymar set up Fred to curl the ball inside the far post despite Casillas getting his fingers to the shot.

Hulk could have added his name to the scoresheet but Casillas charged out of his area to block the powerful frontman’s lob. Ramos’ header was saved but the Real Madrid defender was to spurn a better chance to get his side back into the game. Marcelo fouled substitute Jesus Navas in the box but Ramos drilled the penalty wide of the left-hand post.

David Villa replaced Torres before Navas had a shot deflected wide, Gerard Pique heading the resulting corner straight at Cesar. Marcelo blazed into the side-netting for Brazil before apologising fulsomely to Fred, who was waiting in the six-yard box to be presented with a certain hat-trick.

Casillas again had to come off limits to foil Hulk while a sliding Villa was unable to meet Pedro’s dangerous cross-shot at the other end. Things got even worse for Spain when Pique was shown a straight red card for chopping down his new club-mate Neymar, who curled the free-kick just over.

Ramos shot wide again before resuming his defensive duties to block Fred’s shot. Neymar was then crowded out when unable to pass the ball with Fred yards offside. The latter’s hat-trick hopes disappeared in that moment as he was swiftly replaced by Jo. Cesar made a superb reflex save from Pedro’s powerful effort and Ramos, strangely Spain’s primary attacking threat, headed Xavi’s corner well wide.

Villa drew another good diving save from Cesar but Brazil were otherwise able to play out the closing stages with no alarms.

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