Rio de Janeiro: Brazilians aren't hiding how much they admire Spain's national team, how good the World Champions are and how difficult it is to play against them. But make no mistake, they say, that doesn't mean they'll fear Spain when the teams meet in the Confederations Cup final on Sunday at the Maracana.
In a match everyone has been hoping to see, the hosts will be trying to win their third-straight title in the World Cup warm-up competition, and fourth overall, while Spain will be looking for its fourth major trophy in five years. Nearly every Brazilian player who has talked about Spain has praised the world and European champion, acknowledging that it's the best team in the world today. But they guarantee Brazil will be ready to make the home fans proud.
"We just have to play football, we can't be afraid," Brazil striker Neymar said Friday. "We know Spain is the best team in the world and that they have the best players in the world. We respect them and I admire them a lot, but when the match starts we have full confidence that we can play well to beat them and win the title for our fans."
Brazil and Spain haven't played since a 1999 scoreless draw in a friendly. "It's tough to wait for a match like this," Neymar said. "I wish we could be playing it tomorrow." Brazil won its fifth World Cup title in 2002, but recently it's Spain which has been the dominant team in international football, capturing the last two European championships and the 2010 World Cup.
Yet to win the Confederations Cup, Spain has nearly the same squad that won the World Cup, while Brazil has only three players left over from its disappointing participation in South Africa. "Everybody knows how good they are," Brazil defensive midfielder Luiz Gustavo said. "But we are not afraid of having to play them."
Spain hasn't lost in 26 matches, since a 1-0 result England in London in 2011. But it struggled against Italy in the semifinals of the Confederations Cup this year and only made it through to the final by edging the European rival 7-6 in a penalty shootout. "The match against Italy showed that Spain can be beaten," Brazil assistant coach Carlos Alberto Parreira said. "Brazil has to keep playing its own game because it has worked so far. There is no reason to change that just because it will play Spain."
Coach Luiz Felipe Scolari added: "We respect their quality, but we will go after the victory. We reached the final just as they did and we can beat them." Brazil, trying to become the first team to win a FIFA tournament for the third-straight time, had its first practice in Rio de Janeiro on Friday.
Defensive midfielder Paulinho, who scored a late winner to give the team a 2-1 victory over Uruguay in the semifinal on Wednesday, was rested because he woke up with flu-like symptoms. He is expected to play in Sunday's final.