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July 3, 2013

Direct Kick: The new Brazil finally looking like the Brazil of old

LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. — As Mark Twain once said, “the report of my death was an exaggeration.”

Brazil knows exactly how he felt.

Coming into Sunday’s Confederation Cup final against the No. 1 team and defending European and World Champion Spain, Brazil had slipped all the way down to No. 22 in FIFA’s current rankings (the lowest it had ever been), between those two football powers Ghana and Mali. Many so-called experts had already written Brazil off as a threat to win next year’s World Cup, which they will be hosting. Some even said that if Brazil wasn’t automatically qualified for the tournament (since they are the host) they probably wouldn’t even qualify. But Brazil triumphed, easily dispatching Spain, 3-0, behind two goals from Fred and another by Neymar. Not good enough to qualify? Come on, this is Selecao we are talking about, the country that had been ranked No. 1 151 times on seven occasions. The team that has never missed a World Cup since the tournament started in 1930, the only country to be able to say that. The country with the soccer lineage of Pele, Cafu, Jairzinho, Tostao, Zico, Ronaldo and Ronaldinho. Did anyone really believe they wouldn’t get it all together for the upcoming World Cup?

Mighty Spain had 1, 614 points, well ahead of No. 2 Germany’s 1,416. Meanwhile, the Brazilians had 872 points and had dropped three spots from the May poll. When the new poll is release Thursday, there’s a good chance that Brazil will have vaulted into the Top 10 thanks to the win over Spain.

For the past couple of years all the talk has been about Neymar, but until this tournament, he hadn’t really showed what he could do on the international level. That all changed with the ConFed Cup, as he put on quite the show with his fantastic goals and great passes. Fans of Barcelona had to be pleased to witness this display, as Neymar has signed with the Spanish giant for this upcoming season.

So does this mean Brazil will win next year’s World Cup? Of course not. But it does serve notice to the rest of the world that the country that put the “beauty” in the beautiful game still has a lot left in their tank.

sports@sentinel-echo.com

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