For one, night the headlines from Brazil won’t revolve around the ongoing street protests, but will instead focus on the Brazilian men’s national soccer team’s brilliant performance in the Confederations Cup Final by stunning Spain 3-0 and lifting the hopes of a battered nation.
The dominating show that team Brazil put on in front of their vocal home fans at Maracana stadium in Rio de Janeiro is a warning shot to the world that A Seleção is going to be a formidable force a year from now when they host the World Cup. Phenom and soon-to-be FC Barcelona star Neymar scored a spectacular goal. Fred added two goals, including the fastest goal in Confederations Cup history. Defender David Luiz saved a goal and goalkeeper Julio Cesar made multiple key stops to secure the victory. Spain didn’t help its cause when Sergio Ramos missed a penalty kick.
But the bigger point is that sports, like nothing else, can unite a nation, even one as currently divided as Brazil. The party mood inside the stadium was in stark contrast to the increasingly violent demonstrations going on around the country that were in part fueled by lavish public spending on soccer stadiums at the expense of public services, schools, hospitals and transportation infrastructure.
However, even with the nation transfixed on the soccer match and celebrations taking place after the victory, there were protests outside the stadium before and during the match as the demonstrations continue. Around 5,000 protesters clashed with police before the game started.