International Soccer
 
      === Stoppage Time: Brazil makes emphatic statement in Confed Cup ===
 
 By Chris Ravita, Soccer Editor
 
 Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - In many circles, the Confederations Cup is
 not regarded as a major international tournament.
 
 Many  players in  the  tournament's  past editions  have  failed  to give  the
 Confederations  Cup their  full effort  and attention  in comparison  to their
 output  for the  World Cup,  for  which the  Confederations Cup  serves as  an
 appetizer.
 
 Perhaps that is why no country has won the Confederations Cup and responded to
 the  triumph  with a World  Cup title  the following year.  But if ever it was
 going to happen, Brazil looks the part to make history.
 
 Brazil,  the  host nation for  this year's tournament  and the 2014 World Cup,
 claimed  its  third successive  Confederations Cup  title on Sunday, defeating
 Spain with a resounding 3-0 win at the historic Maracana.
 
 The impressive run of prominence dates back eight years.
 
 The  Samba  Boys boasted a  stacked lineup  consisting of Ronaldinho, Kaka and
 Ronaldo  at the 2006 World Cup and looked the favorites to win the competition
 after  dismantling  Argentina, 4-1, in  the 2005 Confederations Cup final, but
 they crashed out in Germany in the quarterfinals.
 
 Brazil   then  claimed  the  2009  Confederations  Cup  in  dramatic  fashion,
 surrendering  a two-goal lead  to the United States in the final only to storm
 back  with three second-half goals. But it failed to spark the five-time World
 Cup  champions  in South Africa the  following year as they were eliminated by
 the Netherlands in the quarterfinals.
 
 Despite  serving  as the host  nation for  the Confederations Cup this summer,
 expectations  for  Brazil were quite  low given the  lack of experience in its
 squad.  Gone  were the cultured attacking  talents that ruled the top European
 club  teams for  season  upon  season as  the  likes  of Ronaldinho,  Rivaldo,
 Ronaldo,  Robinho  and Kaka  were replaced  by the youth  of Neymar, Oscar and
 Paulinho.  Even  the aging  options at  Luiz Felipe  Scolari's disposal - Fred
 and  Hulk  come to  mind -  have not been  under the  scrutiny that comes with
 playing under the bight lights of Camp Nou or the Bernabeu, something to which
 their predecessors with the national team had grown quite accustomed.
 
 But Brazil eased out of a potentially tricky group consisting of Japan, Mexico
 and Italy, scoring nine goals in three matches while conceding just twice. The
 Brazilians  were pushed by Uruguay in the semifinals but showed enough resolve
 to  come away with a 2-1 victory thanks to a late header from Paulinho. Spain,
 meanwhile,  edged Italy in  penalties to set up a dream final against the host
 nation.
 
 It  was  Brazil's biggest  test of  the tournament, but  it passed with flying
 yellow-and-white colors.
 
 The  Brazilians  operated as a cohesive  unit, playing the right passes at the
 right times to dismantle the Spaniards on the counterattack.
 
 Neymar  was dangerous  virtually every  time he  received the  ball, but  also
 displayed an unselfish quality that the 21-year-old has rarely shown.
 
 Fred  was ruthless  in front  of goal  throughout the  tournament, taking  his
 chances  with great  aplomb  to  finish tied  with  Fernando  Torres atop  the
 Confederations Cup scoring chart with five goals in the competition.
 
 Oscar  was  deadly with his passing,  threading the needle to put Neymar, Fred
 and Hulk in great positions.
 
 And  Paulinho was  an unsung hero, going box-to-box throughout Brazil's run to
 the  title  to provide support  in attack while tracking  back to break up the
 opposition's possession.
 
 Before  the start of  the tournament, it did not appear to be a vintage Brazil
 side.  Apart  from Neymar - who  still entered the competition as a relatively
 unproven  commodity -  there was  a void  in attacking  flair that  has become
 synonymous with Brazilian football.
 
 But Brazil's ability to collectively dismantle a world-power like Spain proved
 many  skeptics wrong.  Some of Brazil's best-ever squads were just as balanced
 and  devoid of egotistical personalities as the one on display at the Maracana
 on Sunday.
 
 An emphatic statement was made in the 2013 Confederations Cup.
 
 And  with  a full year  for Brazil's national  team to gain further experience
 playing  in  Europe against the top  players in the  world on the club side of
 football,  that statement  was  clear: "Watch  out for  the  host nation  next
 summer."
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 06/30 20:33:59 ET

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