Rio de Janeiro – Protesters hurling petrol bombs clashed with riot police as the curtain came down on the violence-plagued Fifa Confederations Cup with host nation Brazil downing world champions Spain in the final.
A fiesta of football inside Rio’s iconic Maracana Stadium saw Brazil triumph 3-0 over Spain to seal their third title in a row, but the last day of the tournament saw no let-up in the protests that have taken place throughout the event.
More than a million Brazilians had taken to the streets during the tournament, venting anger at the estimated $15 billion (R148.2 billion) being spent on both the Confederations Cup and World Cup while bemoaning the South American country’s public services.
Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff – who was booed when she appeared alongside Fifa President Sepp Blatter at the opening game in Brasilia two weeks ago – declined to attend yesterday’s final at the Maracana.
Instead, Rousseff, whose popularity has plunged since the start of the unrest, issued a congratulatory message to the victorious Brazilian team.
“In this memorable campaign, our athletes showed joy, creativity, team spirit and unity which conquered all Brazilians and they offered the world a great spectacle.
“Today I joined all Brazilians in celebrating this great victory,” said Rousseff.
Before kickoff outside the stadium, a small group of hooded protesters, some armed with screwdrivers and slingshots, lit a fire in the street and hurled stones at police who responded by firing tear gas and rubber bullets as helicopters circled overhead.
“Unfortunately, the incidents were started by protesters who hurled makeshift bombs and stones at police,” Henrique Guelber of the Center for the Defenders of Human Rights, told the G1 news website.
More than 11 000 police and troops were mobilised to ensure security for 78 000 fans at the Maracana as protests continued.
Spain did not have what it took to stop Brazil’s reinvigorated team, allowing the five-time world champion to earn a resounding victory with two goals by Fred and one by young sensation Neymar.
“We played a very good match, it allows us to have a better idea about the path ahead of us,” Brazil coach Luiz Felipe Scolari said. “We have a good team to play in the next World Cup.”
Fred put Brazil on the board less than two minutes into the match, Neymar added to the lead just before half-time and Fred netted his fifth goal in five matches early in the second half to give Brazil victory at the World Cup warm-up tournament.
“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,” Scolari said. “Now we have more confidence, that’s what we needed.”
Sergio Ramos missed a penalty kick in the 55th and Spain ended the match a man down after defender Gerard Piqué was sent off with a straight red card for fouling Neymar in the 68th.
Brazil came in hoping a victory would help it regain its status as a global powerhouse after recent struggles. Brazil was eliminated in the quarterfinals in the last two World Cups and hadn’t won a significant title since the 2009 Confederations Cup in South Africa.
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