Luiz Felipe Scolari looks set to stick with the team that has been virtually ever-present throughout Brazil’s Confederations Cup run when his side takes on Spain in the final at Rio de Janeiro’s Maracana on Sunday. The man who took over from Mano Menezes late last year has taken full advantage of the World Cup dress rehearsal to forge a cohesive unit both on and seemingly off the pitch. In only one match has his lineup been changed, that being when Paulinho missed out against Italy with injury before promptly being restored for a tense semifinal win over Uruguay.
Coming into the two-week tournament, there were plenty of doubts about whether Scolari was on the right path to making Brazil real challengers to lift the World Cup back on home soil next year. But the man who led the Selecao to glory in 2002, believes the Confederations Cup has been a major success -- win or lose on Sunday.
“We have overcome a lot of hurdles and we have really grown together over the last 30 days, and for the 15 days in this competition, and it would be great for us to win it," he said, according to Reuters.
"We would show to the world we are among the group of teams who can win the World Cup, but even if we don't win on Sunday as can happen in a football match, I still think we have done a lot this month and now we want to prove it to the Brazilian crowds who have been fantastic and supported us so much."
There is much more doubt over the makeup of the Spain team, especially after they battled for 120-minutes-plus in the stifling conditions of Fortaleza before eventually prevailing on penalties over Italy. Del Bosque would only say that the team will be “similar” to the one that featured last time out. If there are to be changes then it is likely to be in attacking areas. Both Fernando Torres and David Silva struggled to make an impact against Italy and could find their places under threat. Cesc Fabregas, who started two of the three group games before missing out with an injury against Italy, is clamoring for a recall.
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"It was just a scare," Fabregas told Spanish sports daily AS. "I was worried because I have a bad history of injuries in the hamstring area, although the past two years have been very positive. I didn't force it against Nigeria and the tests showed nothing more than a bit of tension which was affecting me in the sprints. But I am already feeling better and am fit to play."
Fabregas could step back in for Silva or else come in for Torres and resume the false nine role he played with success in Euro 2012. Valencia striker Roberto Soldado is also an option to take his place as the focal point of the attack.
G: Julio Cesar
D: Dani Alves, David Luiz, Thiago Silva, Marcelo
M: Paulinho, Luiz Gustavo
Hulk, Oscar, Neymar
D: Arbeloa, Pique, Ramos, Alba
M: Xavi, Busquets, Iniesta
F: Fabregas, Torres, Pedro
Prediction: At this point in both team’s cycles Spain remain clearly the better side, although there is an argument to be made that La Roja’s incredible generation are just slightly on the decline, while Brazil are currently on the upswing. However, the fact that Spain have had a day’s less rest than their opponents and will have been exhausted following their semifinal levels the playing field considerably. Add to that the fact that Brazil are playing at home, have a point to prove and, arguably, possess greater motivation than Spain then it is the Selecao that may just have the edge.
Scolari’s side, which is based foremost among strong organization, will likely relish not having the pressure on them to make all the attacking running. The likes of Neymar and Oscar and the so far under-performing Hulk will have to be efficient using their pace to exploit opportunities on the break. If they do that then Brazil could well be celebrating an important confidence-boosting win with 12 months to go before the real thing kicks off back in front of their demanding public.
Where to watch: The Confederations Cup final will kick-off at 6 p.m. ET. Coverage will be provided by ESPN, with a live stream available on ESPN3.