RIO DE JANEIRO — The Confederations Cup has the final nearly everyone wanted: a long-awaited matchup between world champion Spain and host Brazil.
The most dominant national team in recent years and the most successful team ever in international play will meet Sunday at Maracana Stadium for the title of the eight-nation warm-up tournament for next year’s World Cup.
It will be the first meeting between the nations since 1999 and their first competitive match since Brazil’s 1-0 win on Socrates’ goal in the first round of the 1986 World Cup in Mexico.
“It’s the match everyone wanted to happen,” Brazilian striker Neymar said. “The entire world wanted it and everybody will be watching it.”
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Brazil, which has won the last two Confederation Cups, hopes a victory will help it regain status as a global power after recent struggles, while Spain wants to show that not even the five-time world champions can put a dent in its supremacy.
“Brazil is possibly the best team in the history of football, and to face them in this situation is something magnificent,” Spanish midfielder Xavi Hernandez said. “It’s a special final, a special night. We want to win it.”
With more than 70,000 Brazilian fans expected to pack the iconic venue, Spain, the world and European champions, will be put to a test by a reinvigorated Selecao led by 21-year-old Neymar and World Cup-winning coach Luiz Felipe Scolari.
“Spain is a spectacular team, but it has weak points just like any other team,” Scolari said Saturday. “I don’t think they are the favorites. We are capable of winning. This is our home, and we need to make them respect us.”
Spain won the 2010 World Cup along with the 2008 and 2012 European Championships. La Furia Roja are unbeaten in a world record 29 competitive matches over three years since losing their 2010 World Cup opener to Switzerland, outscoring opponents 69-11 over that span.
“We are talking about a match against Brazil, the fathers of football, at the Maracana,” Spain coach Vicente Del Bosque said.
Brazil won its fifth World Cup title in 2002 but was eliminated in the quarterfinals in the last two World Cups and hasn’t won a significant title since the 2009 Confederations Cup in South Africa, where the Brazilians beat the U.S. 3-2 in the final.
“They are the current world champions. They have to be praised,” Brazil captain Thiago Silva said. “But anything can happen in a final.”