RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — Brazil won a heated matchup of past and present soccer powers, boosting its confidence as it prepares to host next year’s World Cup.
Fred scored two goals, Neymar added another and Brazil defeated world champion Spain 3-0 in the Confederations Cup final on Sunday night as protesters clashed with riot police outside Maracana Stadium.
Brazil, a five-time world champion, beat the reigning world and European champion and ended Spain’s 29-game, three-year winning streak in competitive matches.
“We beat the world champions today, but we know that the tournament that we will be playing next year will be a lot more difficult,” Brazil coach Luiz Felipe Scolari said. “Now we have more confidence. That’s what we needed.”
Fred put Brazil ahead in the second minute, Neymar doubled the lead in the 44th with his fourth goal of the tournament and Fred added his fifth in the 47th.
Brazil, which won its third straight Confederations Cup, has not lost a competitive home match since 1975.
Spain, which had not lost a competitive game since its 2010 World Cup opener against Switzerland, had a miserable night. Sergio Ramos sent a penalty kick wide in the 55th and defender Gerard Pique was ejected by Dutch referee Bjorn Kuipers with a straight red card for fouling Neymar in the 68th.
“They were superior on every way,” Spain coach Vicente Del Bosque said. “They scored early. This is not an excuse but they had pressure on us all the time.”
Eliminated in the quarterfinals of the last two World Cups, the Selecao entered the tournament having not played a competitive match since the 2011 Copa America, Brazil had slipped to 22nd in the FIFA rankings, between Ghana and Mali.
Spain, ranked first for the past 20 months, is the most accomplished national team of the 21st century, winning its first World Cup in 2010 between titles in the 2008 and 2012 European Championships.
But in the stadium that will host the World Cup final on July 14 next year, Brazil dominated La Furia Roja.
“The champion is back,” chanted the crowd of more than 73,000 people at the renovated Maracana.
It also didn’t take long before the fans – in a sea of yellow jerseys – started teasing the Spaniards, chanting “Wanna play, wanna play!? Brazil will teach you.”
Spain had been unbeaten in 26 matches overall, including friendlies, since a 1-0 loss to England in London in 2011 and had outscored opponents 69-11 in competitive matches since the loss to Switzerland in South Africa.
But Spain had not played Brazil since a 1999 exhibition, and they hadn’t met in a competitive match since the Selecao’s 1-0 win in the first round of the 1986 World Cup in Mexico.
Fred opened the scoring after a cross into the area by Hulk in the second minute. The ball bounced off Neymar near the far post and Fred, who had fallen while trying to reach for the cross, shot with his right foot while still on the ground.
Brazil added to the lead after Neymar exchanged passes with Oscar and then sent a powerful left-footed shot over goalkeeper Iker Casillas.
Fred got the final goal from just inside the area, sending a low shot to the far corner. Hulk started the move with a pass to Neymar, but the striker let it go as Fred came running behind him.
Spain was awarded the penalty kick after Marcelo fouled Jesus Navas inside the area. Ramos, who skied a penalty kick for Real Madrid against Bayern Munich in the 2012 Champions League semifinals, sent this one wide.
Spain’s best chance before the penalty came with Pedro Rodriguez in the 41st, when he entered the area clear from defenders on a breakaway. His low shot beat goalkeeper Julio Cesar, but David Luiz came rushing in and slid in front of the goal line just in time to deflect the ball over the crossbar.
There were protests outside the stadium during the match, with police using rubber bullets and tear gas to keep demonstrators from getting too close. A wave of anti-government protests has swept across Brazil in recent weeks, and many affected the Confederations Cup host cities as demonstrators complained of the costs of hosting the World Cup.
On the field, it was a heated match from the start, with players from both teams pushing and shoving each other a few times. Even the substitutes got into a shouting match.