The dress rehearsal is almost complete.
All that remains is the final act and the curtain calls. The script, though, is incomplete. Fate might know how this ends - the rest of us will have wait and see.
It is the climax we expected. The host nation against the world champion was the only logical finale - any other match-up at the iconic Maracana
stadium would have left a trail of unanswered questions about how Brazil or Spain failed to reach the FIFA Confederations Cup championship game.
Both teams arrive to the last game with perfect records
. The South American giants and the European champions cruised through the group stages but were stretched in their respective semifinals
. Brazil found a late winner
after surviving a strong challenge from neighbouring Uruguay, while Spain was pushed all the way to penalty shootouts
before finally disposing of Italy.
One of those records is about to be spoiled. Will it be the faulty lock on Brazil's backdoor we saw hanging off its hinges on Wednesday as Edinson Cavani exploited some comedic defending? If Uruguay could find a way through, surely Spain can expose the same weakness.
Can soccer's next superstar end the Confederations Cup as he began? When this tournament is done Neymar will continue his soccer education in Spain
. But before the highly anticipated move to Europe, the 21-year-old Brazilian has the chance to finish with a flourish against the world's best team.
Contrast of styles
Either scenario is a plausible possibility; perhaps we'll be lucky enough to see both. It promises to be a fascinating contrast of style and footballing philosophy. Brazil - carefree, spontaneous and eager to entertain against Spain, whose precise, patient passing game has not won any fans in South America, but has a proven track record of success.
The Confederations Cup is not the World Cup and does not pretend to be. Winning it, as Brazil has done for the last two editions, is no guarantee of success at the main event the following year. Brazil's 2009 triumph was followed by a quarter final exit at the 2010 World Cup. Nobody thought about Spain's shocking semifinal defeat to the Americans when it stood on top of the footballing world for the first time in South Africa.
Curiously, though, the 2013 Confederations Cup is a competition both Brazil and Spain need to win. The host nation wants to send out a global message that it is back; it must demonstrate to the qualifiers that it has a new cast of exciting characters and, having waited more than 60 years to stage the World Cup again, it's not going to let that opportunity go to waste.
Spain stands on the threshold of greatness
. Having dominated world soccer for five years it must underline its authority and show it can beat even Brazil in its own backyard. In simple terms, La Roja must keep winning - starting with this test event to remind itself and its rivals it remains top dog.
Absent friends will be watching and looking for chinks in the armour. Germany, Argentina, the Netherlands, Belgium and others all have a vested interest in what happens between Brazil and Spain. They all know, even a year before the World Cup kicks off, the road to success in 2014 will likely have to go through one or both of these nations.
Brazil has home advantage and must use that energy and backing to the best of its ability. The so-called "12th man" is never a bad thing but the Brazilians must not go gung-ho from the outset. Flair is all well and good but it must be used responsibly against an opponent of Spain's calibre.
At this level improvisation can lead to carelessness. Spain is not only the best passing team on the planet - it is also one of the hardest working outfits in an area often overlooked. When they don't have the ball, the Spaniards hustle harder than most to regain possession and control of the game.
You won't have to watch to know when Spain has the football. You'll hear it. The incessant whistling and jeering from 70+ thousand Brazilians will accompany every spell of foreign occupation, but it won't faze the world champion. Spain has been there and done that.
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