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A Cut above the best

Fred scores twice,Neymar once as Brazil thrash world champions Spain 3-0 to win Confeds Cup

Written by Associated Press | Rio De Janeiro | Published: July 2, 2013 2:20:20 am

Fred scored two goals and Neymar added another as host Brazil convincingly defeated champion Spain 3-0 to win the Confederations Cup on Sunday as protesters clashed with riot police outside the Maracana Stadium.

Fred put Brazil on the board less than two minutes into the match,Neymar added to the lead just before halftime and Fred netted his fifth goal in five matches early in the second half to give Brazil victory. The win for the host nation was surprisingly easy against the current world champion. Sergio Ramos missed a penalty kick for Spain in the 55th,sending his low shot wide. Spain defender Gerard Pique was sent off with a straight red card for fouling Neymar in the 68th.

Brazil came in hoping a victory would help it regain its status as a global powerhouse after recent struggles. Brazil was eliminated in the quarterfinals in the last two World Cups and hadn’t won a significant title since the 2009 Confederations Cup in South Africa. The title gives Brazilian fans hope that the five-time world champions have a chance to win the World Cup title next year,although no Confederations Cup champion has ever won football’s showcase event the following year. It also didn’t take long before the fans — in a sea of yellow jerseys — started teasing the Spaniards,chanting “Wanna play,wanna play!? Brazil will teach you.’’

The Brazilian players huddled after the final whistle and started singing and jumping,then went toward the crowd near the sidelines and began celebrating. The result ended Spain’s 26-match unbeaten streak. It hadn’t lost since a 1-0 result England in a friendly in London in 2011. Its last loss in an official competition had happened 29 matches ago,in the 2010 World Cup opener against Switzerland.

Spain badly wanted a victory against the five-time world champion,which was one of the few top teams it hadn’t faced since it began dominating international football. Spain won the 2010 World Cup along with the 2008 and 2012 European Championships.

first in a while

IT was the first time the two nations had met since a scoreless friendly in 1999. The last competitive match between the teams had been Brazil’s 1-0 win in the first round of the 1986 World Cup in Mexico. Brazil scored early on Sunday and kept pressuring,but it didn’t take long for Spain to start taking control of the match. The Europeans were not able to create many dangerous opportunities,though,while Brazil kept threatening via counterattacks.

Fred opened the scoring after a cross into the area by Hulk in the second minute. The ball bounced off Neymar near the far post and Fred,who had fallen while trying to reach for the cross,fired it in with his right foot while still on the ground. Brazil added to the lead with Neymar’s fourth goal in five matches after an exchange of passes with Oscar in the 44th. The newly signed Barcelona striker,touted as the future of Brazilian football,fired a powerful left-footed shot into the top of the net.

Neymar was voted the player of the tournament. Neymar and Daniel Alves took the time after the match to congratulate their Barcelona teammates,who looked desolate across the field. Fred closed the scoring in the 47th from inside the area,sending a low shot to the far corner. Hulk started the move with a pass to Neymar,but the striker let it go as Fred came running behind him. Spain had the penalty kick after Marcelo fouled Jesus Navas inside the area,but Sergio Ramos sent his kick wide. Spain’s greatest chance before the penalty came with Pedro Rodriguez in the 41st,when he entered the area clear from defenders in a breakaway. His low shot beat Brazil goalkeeper Julio Cesar,but David Luiz came rushing in and slid in front of the goal line just in time to keep the ball from going in.

Brazil won the its first Confederations Cup title in Saudi Arabia in 1997,then again in Germany in 2005 and in South Africa in 2009. Spain was trying to win the tournament for the first time. Brazil struggled after coach Luiz Felipe Scolari returned to the national team earlier this year,winning only one of its first six matches with him in command,but it has won six in a row now. The warm-up tournament,which gives the home country a chance to test its preparations for the World Cup,is played among continental champions plus the World Cup winner and the hosts. There were protests outside the stadium during the match,with police using rubber bullets and tear gas to keep demonstrators from getting too close. A wave of anti-government protests has swept across Brazil in recent weeks,and many affected the Confederations Cup host cities as demonstrators complained of the costs of hosting the World Cup.

Neymar finally came through for Brazil,proving his worth to the world and showing Brazilian fans that he has what it takes to lead the national team at the World Cup next year. The 21-year-old Neymar was voted player of the tournament at the Confederations Cup and was decisive in Brazil’s 3-0 victory against Spain in Sunday’s final at the Maracana Stadium.

He arrived at the World Cup warm-up tournament enveloped in doubt after a series of lackluster performances with the national team,but is leaving acclaimed both in Brazil and abroad. The Confederations Cup marks the coming of age for Neymar,giving him his first title with Brazil’s senior team just before he makes his much-anticipated move to join Barcelona. “It turned out to be even better than I expected,” Neymar said. “I’m really happy to have played well and that the Selecao won the title.”

Neymar was among the players loudly booed by more than 50,000 Brazilian fans after a disappointing draw in a friendly with Chile just two months ago.

“I’m really happy with the way things happened,” Neymar said. “I hope it can continue like that,but I have to take it one tournament at a time.”

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