After cruising past Spain in the Confederations Cup final, Brazil has sent out a bold statement of intent and given everyone a year's notice: They are back and they mean business.
The dream final? So they said. It was certainly a fantasy for Brazil but a horrible nightmare for Spain.
Hands up if you saw that coming. Brazil has sent out a bold statement of intent and given everyone a year's notice. The wording is brief and to the point: "We are back and we mean business. We will be even better at the World Cup."
I am paraphrasing of course. The statement was never actually written but Brazil's sizzling performances at the FIFA Confederations Cup spoke volumes. The comprehensive 3-0 victory over Spain is the sort of result which makes everyone sit up and take notice.
This is the World Cup and European champion we're talking about. This is the team which redefined football excellence. This is the team which got blown away by a Brazilian blitz under the bright lights of the Maracana Stadium. This, for Spain, could be the beginning of the end.
The game itself was over as a contest within two minutes of the second half. Fred's second goal of the night, and fifth goal in three games, made the task impossible. The Spaniards, so often the dominant, controlling force in recent years, were on the receiving end from which there was no salvation.
The pivotal moment did not lead to a goal. Brazilian defender David Luiz' brilliant goal-line clearance prevented Pedro levelling the scores in the closing minutes of the first half. The momentum would have swung in favour of Spain and given it a platform on which to build a second half assault. Three minutes later, Neymar earned his Golden Ball at the other end.
Brazil has waited nearly three years to play some competitive soccer. The time lapse has allowed Neymar and Oscar to mature as internationals and in the space of two weeks they have proven they are good enough to lead a proud and passionate nation. The trademark Brazilian swagger has been reignited by two men who weren't even teenagers when Brazil won the last of its 5 World Cups.
Spain may finally need a Plan B. The tried and tested tiki-taka style was not allowed to settle into the familiar flowing rhythm which has become the hallmark of its success. Brazil was never going to sit back and allow Spain to dictate the pace in its own backyard. Italy, too, figured it out in an exhausting semifinal. Had Mario Balotelli been available who can say how that might have turned out?
Far removed from Rio de Janeiro, the world was watching. In Germany, Argentina and the Netherlands coaches, players and fans now know Spain is not invincible. When pressed and hurried the Spaniards turn over possession just like any other team. They will still be among the World Cup favourites in 2014 but the aura surrounding them is a little dimmer.
Spain will remain FIFA's number one team when the latest rankings are released on Thursday. It is safe to assume Brazil will no longer be number 22 on the list. If FIFA wishes football fans to give it any credence whatsoever, now would be a good time to rethink the way the points are added and subtracted.
Italy leaves Brazil with credit and confidence. The bronze medal was not what it came for but probably what it would have settled for before a ball was kicked.
The penalty shootout victory over Uruguay was a testament to the players' fitness just three days after the energy sapping epic semifinal battle with Spain. The performance was as mature as it needed to be and not for the first time goalkeeper Gigi Buffon answered his critics with a strong of fine saves.
Uruguay proved it is still a tough nut to crack. If the South American champion qualifies for 2014, rivals will be looking to avoid Uruguay in the group stages. Edinson Cavani and Luis Suarez are good enough to test any defence while the evergreen Diego Forlan may just have the legs to remain a threat.
We also discovered Goal Line Technology works. FIFA's expensive new toy, being piloted at its first major tournament, wasn't needed in any of the 16 matches for the reason it is employed. However, GLT did manage to identify Davide Astori as the last man to touch the ball before it 'wholly' crossed the line in the third place playoff.
So Brazil signs off for the time being. It is a brief hiatus before the world returns a year from now to compete for soccer's greatest prize.
Twice as many stadia, four times as many teams, but ultimately it will all come down to the Maracana on July 13th 2014. Brazil will, once again, expect to be one of the teams involved.