Brazil capped off an impressive run of performances in their first turn as Confederations Cup hosts by beating Spain 3-0 to win the tournament for the third time in a row and fifth overall. Though Confederations Cup titles have become a regularity for Brazil never before given much praise, the fact that this one ended with a comprehensive victory over SPAIN!!! — the World Cup and back to back European Championship winners riding a 29-match unbeaten streak in competitive matches — seems to have made this one different.
Before the match even ended, eulogies for Spain possession-heavy style of play were already being written while others were prepared to give Brazil their sixth World Cup title a year early. But after the match, Neymar — the 21-year-old who won the tournament's Golden Ball and Bronze Boot — advised everyone to hold the phone. From Reuters:
"Lets keep calm, let's keep our feet on the ground," he said as Brazil emerged as serious contenders to win the World Cup on home soil in a year's time. "We did very well and we are on the right track.
"We needed this time to train, we get to know each other and to work together and we are much better than we were. We won the title and that was a great end to a great tournament."
As always, snap judgements lacking any perspective beyond the previous 90 minutes are inevitable and, more often then not, fairly wrong. This result is definitely an encouraging one for Brazil. It showed the brilliance Neymar is capable of and proved that their home advantage is undeniable (even, or perhaps especially, in the midst of nationwide protests against the government and FIFA). But they still have never followed up a Confederations Cup win with a World Cup win.
Form can change a lot over 12 months and having something to prove can degenerate into overconfidence faster than you can say "quarterfinal exit." Plus, crown jewel Neymar is about to move from his loving homeland to Barcelona and he's doing it with a €57 million price tag on his head.
Meanwhile, Spain could've also lost to Italy in the semifinal. But the last time they failed to win the Confederations Cup, they went on to win the World Cup and a second European Championship. That semifinal loss to the USA (who went on to lose to Brazil in the final) in 2009 snapped an even longer unbeaten streak for them (35 matches) and they then went on to lose to Switzerland in their first match of the 2010 World Cup. As we soon learned, it was hardly the end of tiki-taka.
Whether the Confederations Cup proves to be a glimpse of a new era, a blip in current trends or a completely irrelevant cash grab for FIFA isn't something we can predict at this point. So let's just admire Neymar's collection of souvenirs and hope the Spanish government doesn't make him disappear when he reports to Barcelona in a few weeks.