Four years ago in South Africa, this was the match-up everyone wanted to see, but it was the US that called it off by defeating Spain in the semifinals. Both teams had difficult semifinals this time around, but both found a way through to the final to get the game that everyone wants to see. Here is a preview for the final.
Brazil have shown well throughout the tournament as Neymar has lived up to the hype. However, Uruguay showed that they are susceptible to counter attacks and they are counting on David Luiz not having a mental lapse as he did during the penalty that was saved by Julio Cesar. There defensive has been shaky when pressed, which may be a problem as Spain has controlled possession and Brazil will need to defend.
However, Spain looked quite vulnerable against Italy and some more clinical finishing, which Brazil will provide, they may have been eliminated. However, Spain did dominate the second half and eventually wore down Italy but were not able to break them down. So, can Brazil replicate Italy’s play? They can provide a more dangerous counter attack, but the attacking prowess of Marcelo and Dani Alves and corresponding weakness defending may make it hard to adopt a 3-man backline that Italy used. Therefore, I expect the Brazil to stay with their 4-2-3-1 formation they have been using, but Oscar or whoever adopts the middle position will play deeper to battle with the trio of Iniesta, Xavi and Busquets.
For Spain, it will be interesting if they change anything. The biggest change in this tournament from previous versions is that Xabi Alonso is out. Javi Martinez would be his most exact replacement and still leave them with two holding midfielders which may help protect a suspect defense (Alba especially was abused by the Italians). The change in formation may neuter the offense, but the improved possession may mean they are defending less often. However, Del Bosque seems happy with his current midfield, so I am not expecting changes.
In the battle between these two sides, Brazil will have the greatest change in terms of facing a team with such great possession, but that may play to their counter attacking advantage. Paulinho and Luiz Gustavo will have strong tests as they will be asked to defend for longer stretches. Fred will also have a big role as he needs to finish the chances he gets. The same can be said of Fernando Torres or whoever starts as Spain’s striker. This is an even match and penalties wouldn’t surprise me, but I think it will be the home crowd that sees the Brazilians take it. Brazil 2, Spain 1