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Brazil-Spain Final at Maracanã Also Neymar's Farewell

Brazil and Spain Meet in Sunday's Final of the 2013 Confederations Cup

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Brazil-Spain Final at Maracanã Also Neymar's Farewell
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Shahan Ahmed, the author, at Maracanã prior to the recent stadium update.

COMMENTARY | Kiss your mother! Spain and Brazil made the final!

No disrespect intended to Italy, but Brazil needed to play Spain in the final of the 2013 Confederations Cup. With the famed Maracanã Stadium recently refurbished--rain or shine--Rio de Janeiro will sizzle on Sunday. Brazil has only played once in the new Maracanã, and that match was a fabulously festive and extravagantly entertaining 2-2 draw against England.

Sunday will be Brazil's last competitive fixture prior to the World Cup, and the atmosphere promises to exude energy and excitement that extends around the world. Assuming Spain qualifies, Sunday's Confederations Cup finalists should enter next year's FIFA World Cup as the two favorites to win the competition.

Back in 1950, Brazil's last home World Cup final was played at Maracanã. Back then, the World Cup involved 16 teams--15 of which showed up--and the final was actually a final group stage involving the four winners of the initial four groups. Ultimately, Brazil drew Uruguay in the final match of the final group stage. The winner of that match would win the 1950 World Cup.

An estimated 200,000 people piled into Maracanã to witness Uruguay defeat Brazil 2-1 in one of the most shocking results in World Cup history.

Not discussed as often, however, is that Spain was one of the teams to qualify for the final group in 1950. On the 13th of July in 1950, Brazil thrashed Spain 6-1 at the Maracanã Stadium in a World Cup final of sorts. To provide some relief to the Spaniards, Sweden was smashed 7-1 in Brazil's first final of that World Cup--also played in Brazil's most famous stadium.

Nearly 63 years later, the same stadium will once against host Brazil and Spain in a final. After the update, Maracanã now holds 73,000 people. When Spain and Brazil met in 1950, more than twice as many people--152,772--were in attendance (Note: I have included a personal picture at Maracanã shortly before it closed for construction; it held over 80,000 at that point).

Regardless of who wins this Sunday, this tournament has served its purpose for the host nation and its Spanish guests.

For the Brazilians, this Confederations Cup provided an opportunity to test the squad in a competitive tournament under the pressures of playing at home. It confirmed the stardom of Neymar, the arrival of Paulinho, the tactics of Luiz Felipe Scolari, and the Brazilian fans' passion for the sport. More than anything else, the Confederations Cup provided this team and country with confidence for the 2014 main event. On the pitch, Brazil converted the critics.

For the Spaniards, a win on Sunday would reaffirm Spain as the best international side in the world and the outright 2014 World Cup favorite. The Spanish superstars also should have learnt to keep all valuables locked in a safe and avoid partying until after the tournament has concluded.

Sunday's Confederations Cup final promises an electric atmosphere at the Maracanã stadium--especially considering it will be Neymar's final match before moving on to Barcelona in Spain. He could probably take a flight back with the Spanish team since the majority of players he will face on Sunday play for Barça.

Ahead of the final, Neymar's national farewell tour has celebrated wins in Brasilia, Forteleza, Salvador, and Belo Horizonte. Sunday, Neymar says one final goodbye in Rio de Janeiro, the site of next year's final. What will he do this time?

Shahan Ahmed is a Yahoo! Contributor in Sports. He covers European and international soccer and is Director of European Football at AccuScore. You can interact with Shahan at @ShahanLA

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