By Tom Webber | Brazil Expert
On the morning of 16 July 1950, the day Brazil took to the field at the Maracana to face Uruguay in the World Cup final, Rio de Janeiro newspaper O Mundo printed a picture of the national team headlined: "These are the world champions." Alcides Ghiggia ensured that would not be the case on the occasion now known as the Maracanazo, but it will be hard to stop such optimism and expectation creeping in once more after Luiz Felipe Scolari's side lifted the Confederations Cup on Sunday after demolishing Spain in the final.
Brazil had the force of a whole nation behind them. Divided by the politics that have caused riots across the country, the public were united in triumph. The Selecao dismantled the reigning world champions with a purposeful, tenacious, passionate performance that signalled Scolari has moulded a team that can compete with any other on their own turf.
The sound inside the iconic Maracana was deafening. Every single touch was greeted with a raucous cheer, while every second of Spanish possession was whistled and jeered. And if the whole crowd singing the national anthem at the top of their voices even after the music had stopped did not rattle the visitors, then the Selecao's high-intensity, high pressing game certainly did.
|SPAIN PULLED TO PIECES
| THE THREE BIG GOALS
|2'||GOOOOOAAAAAAL!!! GOOOOAAAAALLL!! GOOOOOOAAAAAAAL!!!! BRAZIL TAKE AN EARLY LEAD!! Hulk clips a cross to the back post and a scuffle ensues before Fred lashes home whilst lying on the turf! What a start! 1-0!!!|
|44'||GOOOOOOOOOOOAAAAAAAAL FOR BRAZIL!!! THE SELECAO LEAD THE WORLD CHAMPIONS 2-0!!! Oscar picks up possession on the edge of the box and stabs a pass through to Neymar who nearly bursts the net with a sensational left-footed strike into the top corner!!! Unbelievable!! The Maracana EXPLODES!!|
|47'||GOOOOOOOOOOAAAAAAALLLL FOR BRAZIL!!! They explode out of the blocks in the second period!!! Hulk slides the ball through the middle and Neymar cleverly dummies the pass. Fred runs on to the loose ball and expertly curls a strike into the bottom right corner! 3-0! Spain are sinking without a trace!|
The Canarinha's super start continued as they forced Spain to make their decisions quickly, denying them the usual time and space on the ball to which they have become accustomed. Luiz Gustavo and Paulinho worked brilliantly in tandem in midfield to hunt down the ball and restrict space, while Neymar and Hulk, at times even Fred, dropped behind the ball and defended from the front.
Their sharpness caught Spain off-guard and made them look utterly redundant despite all their possession. Granted, they had less time to recover for the game and played an additional 30 minutes to Brazil, but they were unable to match the determination, vigour and desire to win of their opponents.
Scolari seemed to have remedied his side's previous shortcomings and set his team out with exactly the right game plan from the off. What would have been highlighted as a potential weakness in the attacking wing-backs of Dani Alves and Marcelo was turned into an advantage. As they pushed up to tighten the area within which La Roja could operate, they prised errors from their opponents.
Only once were they exposed on the counter-attack and even then David Luiz was back to cover with an heroic goal-line clearance to keep Pedro off the score sheet.
Indeed, the creativity which had previously been missing also returned as Oscar showed sublime decision-making in the final third, particularly when he slotted the ball through for Neymar to slam home the second.
After evading the loose marking of Arbeloa, Neymar announced himself on the biggest stage of his career and in front of many of his new team-mates. Previously accused of going quiet in big games, there can be little doubting now that the 21-year-old is capable of making an impact at the highest levels.
Things got even better early in the second half. "The champions are back!" roared from the stands as Fred made it 3-0 in a huge display from Scolari's Brazil. From villain following the Selecao's Copa America elimination in 2011 to national hero with his double in the final - Fred's international redemption was complete back in the city where he inspired Fluminense to lift the 2012 Brasilleirao.
Although Sergio Ramos missed from the penalty spot and Spain were reduced to 10 men when Gerard Pique brought down Neymar in the 68th minute, Julio Cesar ensured the safety of his clean sheet by denying Pedro and David Villa goals in the closing 10 minutes.
Brazil had given their all. They simply wanted to win more than Vicente del Bosque's men and it was evident in the contrast between their aggressive approach to the game and Spain's timidity. Scolari had spoken of the need for maturity and growth prior to the final. He got that in abundance.
The coach downplayed the victory to the press after the game, but for Brazil this competition was not just a test for their stadia and infrastructure. Their team also passed it with flying colours, proving they have the capability to avenge the 1950 defeat to Uruguay that still torments the nation's football-mad public. They will be even more expectant at the World Cup, but if they support the side in the manner which they did on Sunday then Brazil will be confident they can take on the world - and win.
Follow Tom Webber on