Maracana magic by Brazil in Confed final
Hosts Brazil enjoyed a triumphant finale to the troubled Confederations Cup with a 3-0 defeat of world champions Spain in the Maracana Sunday.
A tournament marked by nationwide protests, ended with a reminder of Brazil's enduring quality as a football powerhouse, which has previously served as uniting factor for the entire nation.
Certainly those packed inside the famous stadium in Rio de Janeiro for the final of the eight-team tournament, a rehearsal for next year's World Cup, would have been filled with optimism.
Protesters outside the iconic ground, with reports of clashes with riot police amid tight security, have been complaining about the cost of staging the global showpiece against a backdrop of poor public services and alleged corruption.
But Luiz Felipe Scolari's men did their best to make sure the headlines would be made by their exploits as they dominated a team holding both the World Cup and European Championship trophies.
For as well as Brazil played, Spain's performance was below standard, with Fred's early goal after a Neymar assist all too easy.
Spain could offer little in return and the home side went further ahead just before the break as Barcelona-bound Neymar received a pass from Oscar and beat Iker Casillas with a thunderous shot.
Only two minutes were on the clock in the second half when Fred beat Casillas again with a first-time shot and Spain's hopes were all but over.
Their night continued to go from bad to worse and after they won a penalty, Sergio Ramos, the hero in the semifinal shoot out win over Italy, sent his effort wide.
With Brazil threatening to add further goals, Gerard Pique hacked down his soon to be teammate Neymar and was promptly shown red.
At the final whistle, the stadium erupted in a sea of yellow to greet a success many will see as a prelude to Brazil winning back the World Cup in 2014.
"Nobody expected such an emphatic result, not against the world champions," said Brazil's coach Luiz Felipe Scolari after the match, in quotes carried by Fifa.com.
"But let's not get carried away. This is more than a title because we've shown that we're on the right path and that we can now take a little more confidence with us as we travel down it."
With the tournament overshadowed by ongoing unrest across the country, Scolari said he hoped the result would bring some relief.
"It's a message for the whole of Brazil. We have to get along and stick together to make sure things move forward."
His opposite number, meanwhile, was philosophical in defeat.
"Obviously this defeat hurts, but I think deep down that we've had a good Confederations Cup," Vicente Del Bosque told reporters.
"I'd rather take the positives away with me today. I've been with an exceptional group of players who have given their all in what have been a fantastic 28 days together."
Earlier, Italy beat Uruguay 3-2 on penalties to claim third spot after the game ended 2-2 after extra time in Salvador.
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