For the win

Amid protests, Brazil's victory against Spain in the Confederations Cup signals a return to form

Even as police clashed with protesters outside the legendary Maracana stadium in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil seemed to finally find its mojo on the football field, comprehensively defeating current world champions Spain 3-0 to win the Confederations Cup for the third time in a row. Aided by the passionate support of fans, the Selecao, as Brazil are known, exploited their home advantage Brazil has not lost a competitive international match at the Maracana since 1950 to emerge as serious contenders for the 2014 World Cup, a tournament that they will also host.

Football has always been serious business in Brazil. The protests that have overtaken the country have much to do with the decision of the Brazilian government to privatise the Maracana, even as it spends $15 billion on hosting this tournament and the World Cup and struggles to adequately fund transport and education. With the once-mighty Selecao now ranked at an all-time low of 22 on FIFA's list, Brazil's disappointing-by-its-own-high-standards performance on the field can only have added to the dissatisfactions of the Brazilian people.

With this emphatic victory over the side that has dominated world football for the past decade, however, Brazil has signalled that it is again becoming a side to be feared. Spain, meanwhile, has lost its aura of invincibility, and concerns over its ageing squad and defensive frailties similar to the questions faced by Barcelona, from where the Spanish national team draws the majority of its players will rise to the fore. It would, of course, be a mistake to read too much into any one result. Thus, talk of Brazil's return to footballing prominence and Spain's decline, on the back of the Confederations Cup, is premature. But its implications cannot be ignored.

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