Today, the Brazilian National Football Team beat the Spanish National Football Team 3-0 to win the 2013 Confederations Cup at Estadio do Maracana, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The rested Brazilians looked and played as fresh as they must have felt while the Spaniards looked to be sleep walking at times. Maybe that allowed them to feel less pain.
The game began with an ugly portent. The homer refereeing team that allowed Borussia Dortmund to manhandle Real Madrid in the Champions League semifinals in Germany earlier this year was again chosen to officiate a critical game. Unfortunately, it cost the Spaniards immediately and repeatedly.
Brazil started the game as they have every match this tournament with a fervent push forward and a near crazy blocking of the oppositions’ attempts at playing the ball forward from their defensive position (http://fifa.to/11R5tuq). It worked at first blush, but they were trying the tactic against Spain. So it took a little official help for things to work out for the home team.
On a great opening play, at the 2nd minute of the game, Hulk sent a beautiful cross from right to left and into a melee in the Spanish goalkeeper’s box. Iker Casillas, Alvaro Albeloa, Fred, and Neymar all collided, and the ball landed under Fred. The Brazilian made sure the ball remained inside the goalkeeper’s box. You would think the play would have been called dead on the spot, but it was not.
The wily Brazilian then managed to get off the ball and use his arm to ensure the ball did not go beyond his prone reach and into Casillas’ waiting hands. Instead the bounce of his arm moved the ball right into the path of his right leg. Surely the hand ball would be called and the play stopped–but it was not.
Lying down, after the body trap and hand ball, Fred was allowed to blast the ball into the net above and beyond the prone Casillas’ reach. Brazil, with two officiating assists, 1, Spain 0.
At the 30th minute a brilliant midfield play, the best of the game, saw Juan Mata the recipient of a great breakaway pass. He turned to immediately change the front of attack, from the far left to the far right, finding a streaking Pedro. The Barcelona striker raced into the box and beat Brazil’s goalie, Julio Cesar, with a great curling left footed shot. Only the gods smiled on Brazil, as David Luis slid in to block the shot at the line and…missed. But the ball had just popped off the pitch at that juncture, and it ricocheted off the defender’s shin and straight up–not sideways or forward or backward but in the only direction that would save the score.
At the 44th minute a pretty Brazilian attack found Arbeloa two feet from Pique, who was next to Ramos, in the middle of the Spanish defense and at the entryway to Casillas’ box. Arbeloa simply forgot to play his position and abandoned the left wing, the place where someone called Neymar plays. The Brazilian star received the pass, in the box, strides away from goal, and boomed a brilliant left-footed kick into the roof of the net. Brazil 2, Spain 0.
Throughout the entire first half the Spaniards were the victims of professional fouls that, coupled with the many times the Brazilians did apply great, fair, pressure, ensured no build up of possession could take place for the Red Furry. The ref seemed to consistently miss the Brazilians’ fouls while consistently calling the Spaniards’ fouls.
The most egregious no-calls were against top tourney scorer Fernando Torres (by Luis), midfield maestro Andres Iniesta (by Oscar, Hulk and the entire Brazilian defense) and Pedro (by Marcelo). The first half ended with a ref’s whistle that stopped a Spanish breakaway. Clearly a case of advantage not being granted. The moment the foul was kicked the half ended. The officiating, which resulted in only two yellow cards and one red–all against Spanish players–was thus universally consistent.
The second half began as the first did and after several professional Brazilian fouls snuffed out several great Spanish counterattacks, a good Brazilian attack materialized. But the critical part of the play, again, required that a foul on the Spanish player who had stopped the attack cold, not be called. Watch the replay videos of the goal to see the Brazilian’s American Football style tackle which leaves the Spanish defender out of the play when he had actually stopped it had the foul been called. The Only then, after the foul, did the play become dangerous and allow Fred to convert a pretty curling shot past Casillas from close in. Brazil 3, Spain 0.
At the 54th minute the third of Spain’s substitutes, Jesus Navas, was brought down in the box by Marcelo. Penalty for Spain and a chance to get back into the game. But somehow Sergio Ramos was chosen to take the penalty. Why? We might never know. But he managed to miss the penalty by failing to put the ball on the frame. He shot wide right, well beyond the post. Score unchanged.
At the 68th minute Gerard Pique fouled Neymar on a breakaway. A clear red card foul. Spain was now down to 10 players and behind by three goals. Thereafter the Brazilians played keep away with the occasional offensive incursion. But the cynical play continued. For the next 13 minutes the number of no calls on pushes, trips, clips, and outright nasty fouls committed against the Spanish team were incalculable. Watch the videos or the photos of the the many times the ref was also intimidated by the Brazilians who crowded him on every controversial call, but received no sanctions.
At the 81st minute, one of Spain’s one-man-short attacks took place and Pedro had a perfect opportunity inside the box go begging thanks to a great save by Cesar. But by now the requisite unnecessary substitutions that each ate a minute or more began to take place. This was similar to the way such coaching was allowed in the Dortmund vs. Real Madrid Champions League semifinals (http://exm.nr/19Tyzzk). The game was coming to an end and not a moment too soon for the Spaniards, or for fans of fair-play football worldwide.
Brazil may have played a good game, and at times frankly outplayed the Spanish, but I would still bet on this Spanish team over the Brazilian one on any neutral pitch and with any honest refs (http://bit.ly/19RclKL). For now, the troubled Brazilian citizenry have reason to celebrate and forget their ills. But the more cynical among us might think the Brazilians made a Faustian deal with FIFA to ensure a tourney win when the country most needed one…politically. But if that was the case, I think the Brazilian fans will have quite a bit more to be sad about come next summer, when the other side of deal comes due.