Brazil and Spain will play out the climax of the Confederations Cup in what promises to be a spectacular final at Rio’s Maracana stadium, the hosts insisting they can deny the world champions.
“Spain are spectacular – but like any team they have their faults,” Brazil coach Luiz Felipe Scolari insisted on Saturday.
“I don’t consider Spain the favourites.”
Organisers and participants will be hoping the occasion is not marred by the social unrest that has dogged the tournament.
Demonstrations that were originally over rising transport fares snowballed into a more general protest against what activists say is government maladministration and poor public services.
In that context, say protesters, the massive sums spent on staging sports events are indefensible.
More than 1.5 million citizens of the host nation have taken to the streets to protest so far and campaigners have called for fresh demonstrations on Sunday.
Spain are spectacular - but like any team they have their faults. I don't consider Spain the favourites
Back on the field, the finalists have only met on eight occasions before: Brazil winning four to Spain’s two with two matches drawn.
Their most recent encounter was a 1999 friendly.
But if history favours the South Americans, Spain have not lost a competitive match in 29 games, since their shock reverse to Switzerland at the start of the 2010 World Cup.
Since winning the Euro 2008 tournament, breaking a trophyless streak dating back to 1964, they have swept all before them.
Their 2008 success came under Luis Aragones, but his successor Vicente del Bosque has refined their approach to near perfection.
Spain’s 2010 World Cup triumph and their Euro 2012 win made them the first national side to win three successive major international events.
In the years when Brazil was accumulating a total of five World Cups from 1958, Spain, their Euro 64 triumph aside, were suffering a catalogue of misfortune.
The last time the two sides met in a match with anything at stake was in the early stages of the 1986 Word Cup. Brazil won by a single goal in a match in which Spain had one effort controversially disallowed.
Scolari sees a positive omen in the date of Sunday’s match: June 30 is the date his old Brazil side won the 2002 World Cup Del Bosque however is quietly confident, even if his players have clocked up 22,000 km since leaving Spain and have had a day less to prepare after their shootout semi-final win over Italy.
“We are not complaining about having a day’s less rest. I believe my players are prepared for the final as they are in great shape.
Midfield pearl Xavi insists Spain will play their possession game.
“Spain’s (playing) philosophy is clear and we have been successful with it. In other words, to enjoy possession and dominate the match,” the Barcelona star declared.
Del Bosque would not be drawn on his line-up as Gerard Pique, Sergio Ramos and Cesc Fabregas battle minor injuries.
The Spanish manager is already the only coach to win the World Cup, the European Championship and the Champions League. Adding the Confederations Cup would be a major additional achievement.
“We have a great desire to win it. Our Euro 2008 win set us on the way and we have maintained our level over these past five years.”
The Brazilians’ last competitive home loss came back in 1975.
But they have suffered from a lack of competitive fixtures in recent months, tumbling down the FIFA rankings as a result.
But by beating Japan, Mexico and Italy in the group phase and then edging Uruguay in a tough semi-final, they are on the way back.
They are keen too, to disprove Pele’s view that the side are not yet good enough to beat the cream of the crop.
Scolari will have to decide whether Bernard or Lucas Moura might be more effective than the lumbering Hulk, who has not scored in nine matches.
But he says a win will bring self belief flooding back to the team and to the nation as a whole.
“My players are very motivated, and we want to make ourselves respected at home. We are in good shape and confident, while respecting our opponents.
“(Sunday) is not just a match but a chance to send a message, principally to our Brazilian supporters.”
That message being, that even if they come off second best, Brazil are again a force to be reckoned with 12 months out from a home World Cup.