Kick-off: 1900 BRT, 2100 GMT, 0330 IST
Venue: Estadio de Maracana, Rio de Janeiro
Referee: Bjorn Kuipers
This is a final the footballing world wanted to see. Spain are the form team at the moment and are a team few have managed to beat in the last seven years. Their back-to-back European Championship triumphs in 2008 and 2012 on either side of their first ever World Cup triumph is South Africa bears testament to just how good they are.
And then there’s Brazil, the guys who play football for fun. A walk on the beach in any Brazilian town will deliver the usual sights of children and adults frolicking in the water while others lie spread eagled on the sand in an attempt to soak up the sun. There may not be much place for them to do that though, on account of the smattering of kids having a kickabout on whatever vacant bit of sand they find.
Football is so deeply enmeshed in Brazilian culture. Not for nothing does their iconic canary-yellow jersey have five very deserving stars. The world is waiting to see Brazil reoccupy their positions as titans of the beautiful game and today could be an excellent litmus test in regard to what we see a year on.
The journey so far
The Selecao have thrived at home. They are the only team to not concede a goal first and have grabbed headlines with their brand of football that is as effective as it is entertaining.
That entertainment value was shown to the world when the hosts dissected Japan 3-0, with goals from Neymar, Paulinho and Jo. They then showcased patience when they were required to wait before Jo sealed all three points after Dante’s strike deep into the first half.
It’s been a while since Brazil played a competitive fixture against the big boys but despite being under siege against both Italy (4-2) and Uruguay (2-1), they were able to come out the other side relatively unscathed.
The Red Fury have developed from perennial chokers to world beaters. A look at their previous outing at the tournament in 2009 bears testament to that. Failing to get out of the group stages in South Africa, the Roja have showed just how much they have developed as a team by getting to the final this time around.
They kicked off their tournament with a somewhat fortunate win over Uruguay (2-1) and put ten past Tahiti to give the islanders their joint worst result. They showed their quality when they outclassed Nigeria 3-0, with the score line being so because although the Nigerians did create as many chances as the World Champions, they did not have the quality up front to take them.
The South Americans have a full roster of players to choose from and given that they have performed very well with nearly the same team for every game so far, there will be little left to the imagination regarding the team Luis Felipe Scolari will pick for this showpiece game.
Despite Jo having scored in two games, he is unlikely to start this game. Fred has scored three so far and his predatory instincts mean he will most probably start up front.
Squad (from): Jefferson, Daniel Alves, Thiago Silva (c), David Luiz, Fernando, Marcelo, Lucas, Hernanes, Fred, Neymar, Oscar, Júlio César, Dante, Filipe Luís, Jean, Réver, Luiz Gustavo, Paulinho, Hulk, Bernard, Jô, Diego Cavalieri, Jádson
Probable Starting XI: Cesar, Alves, Silva (c), Luiz, Marcelo, Gustavo, Oscar, Paulinho, Neymar, Hulk, Fred
Like Brazil, the current world champions also have a full complement of players and while Brazil’s team pretty much picks itself, Vicente del Bosque has a dilemma of whom to play up front. Roberto Soldado has performed well when asked to lead the line but Fernando Torres (goals aside) put in a good shift against the Italians.
And then there is David Villa, who hasn’t seen much action but is Spain’s top scorer. In addition, Jesus Navas has performed admirably when brought on from the bench and could be in contention for a starting berth.
Squad (from):Iker Casillas (c), Raúl Albiol, Gerard Piqué, Javi Martínez, César Azpilicueta, Andrés Iniesta, David Villa, Xavi Hernández, Fernando Torres, Cesc Fàbregas, Pedro Rodríguez, Víctor Valdés, Juan Mata, Roberto Soldado, Sergio Ramos, Sergio Busquets, Álvaro Arbeloa, Jordi Alba, Nacho Monreal, Santi Cazorla, David Silva, Jesús Navas, Pepe Reina
Probable Starting XI:Casillas, Azpilicueta, Ramos, Alba, Busquets, Xavi, Iniesta, Pedro, Navas, Villa
“They (Spain) are the best side in the world and are favourites. We must play football and not fear them. We are playing the best team of the world nowadays, but we also have great players in the Brazilian national team.” – Neymar, forward, Brazil
“We are playing Spain by respecting their quality, but also trying to show our potential and talent. We have reached the final and we have enough quality to get past them.Spain are a totally integrated team but we’ll play with our own style, with the way we’ve been playing so far.” – Luis Felipe Scolari, Coach, Brazil
“Brazil are favourites because they are playing at home and I don’t know how many thousand people will be behind them. We must turn that into a form of motivation for us. There is no bigger challenge than beating Brazil at their home ground.Brazil are a great team and have played a spectacular championship so far. But we have a very good team too, and I have no hesitation in saying we are going for the title.” – Andres Iniesta, midfielder, Spain
The most memorable meeting between the two sides was at the 1934 World Cup in Italy. Jose Iraragorri scored two at the Stadio Luigi Ferraris to give Spain a 3-1 win and end the Selecao’s dreams of winning the championship despite Leonidas’ second half strike.
This time around, Spain are the more experienced but Brazil have a fanatical home support whose energy they have been feeding off throughout the tournament. The hosts however will continue to play the way they do irrespective of the support they receive and a win here will announce the return of Brazil to the world’s stage
Brazil 2-1 Spain