Confederations Cup: Can the real thing match its dress rehearsal?
I donâ€™t know if Brazilâ€™s rout of Spain means there will be a shift in the balance of power, but one thing seems pretty certain: If the Confederations Cup was a taste of things to come, we should have a delicious World Cup in a yearâ€™s time.
Wildly entertaining in all aspects, the eight-nation tournament, seen as an acid test for the worldâ€™s biggest soccer event, produced all the thrills a fan could ask for and was capped by a memorable final in which the reigning world and double European champions were outplayed like never before in recent history.
That came after a pair of pulsating semi-finals, an exciting third-place match and several group stage classics, notably Brazilâ€™s 4-2 win over Italy which followed the latterâ€™s 4-3 defeat of Japan.
And lest we forget Tahiti, last yearâ€™s surprise Oceania champions, who never lost their enthusiasm, the smiles on their faces or the respect of their much stronger opponents despite conceding an avalanche of goals.
The one they scored, however, must have meant the world to a group of players who had surely never dreamed of taking centre stage alongside the likes of Fernando Torres, Neymar, Edinson Cavani and the other world class performers who lit up the tournament.
The electrifying atmosphere in Brazilâ€™s superbly refurbished stadiums went hand in hand with the two-week long feast of goals, missed chances, great saves and dramatic twists, emphatically denying those pundits and fans who see the Confederations Cup as nothing more than a series of friendly matches with no real significance.
The 32-nation extravaganza next yearÂ could be equally captivating butÂ it remains to be seen whether the World Cup will also coincideÂ with more protests against the BrazilianÂ government, which at one stage threatened to overshadow this tournament.
Any such problems that could blight the 2014 World Cup would leave no one more gutted than the host nation, whose revamped team under Luiz Felipe Scolari looked a decent reincarnation of Brazilâ€™s famous 1970 outfit which bedazzled their rivals.
With Neymar personifying Pele andÂ the lethal Fred starkly resembling Tostao,as wingers Hulk and Oscar brought back memories of darting runs by Rivelino and Jairzinho, who can wait for Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo, Wayne Rooney, Robin Van Persie, a talent-packed Belgium and the ever so strong Germany to join show?