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FOOTBALL

Wounded Spain defiant after Brazil defeat

Spain looked forward to a chance for World Cup revenge on Monday after Brazil hammered the world champions 3–0 in a humiliating Confederations Cup final at the Maracana Stadium.

Wounded Spain defiant after Brazil defeat
Top scorers Spanish striker Fernando Torres (R), and Brazil forwards Fred (C) and Neymar at the Confederations Cup Brazil 2013. Photo: Lluis Gene/AFP

The team, also current European champions, were swept away by the more powerful Brazilians and must now learn the lessons of their defeat if they are to stop Brazil running away with the World Cup they will host in 2014, the Spanish press said.

"We will be back," vowed the front page headline in Spain's biggest sports daily Marca.

Brazil raced into a 1–0 lead after only two minutes through Fred's first of the night, then made it 2–0 just before half time with an unstoppable left-footer by Neymar. Two minutes after the restart Fred made it 3-0 with a low drive wide of keeper Iker Casillas' outstretched arm.

"Spain sink in the Maracana and make a date for Brazil in the 2014 World Cup," said Marca, over a photograph of Neymar celebrating his spectacular goal.

"Everything went wrong for Spain," the paper said, from an attempt to equalize when 1-0 down that was blocked on the line by Brazil's David Luiz, to a missed penalty by Sergio Ramos in the second half.

Piling on the pain for Spain, Gerard Pique was sent off halfway through the second half for a professional foul on Neymar.

Marca praised Brazil's superiority in concentration, speed, intensity, physical strength and football. But the paper also criticised the referee's lax attitude to Brazil's "continual fouls".

"Brazil will be the favourites in the next World Cup," said the paper's football analyst Santiago Segurola.

"But it will be hard to improve on yesterday's level," he added.

Spain had come back from a Confederations Cup defeat to win the last World Cup, he warned, predicting that the return of Xabi Alonso to Spain will fix many of the side's problems.

Rival sports daily AS ran the same defiant front page headline: "We will be back."

Spain were made up of midfielder Andres Iniesta "and 10 others", said an opinion piece by AS's Alfredo Relano.

He criticized Spain's defence, bemoaned a lack of "miracles" from keeper Iker Casillas and added that the competition had not gone well for Xavi Hernandez.

Brazil's Neymar, who joins Barcelona from next season, emerged as a "world class figure", however, he said.

"We have a year to find out if this team has further to go or if it already needs a shake-up," Relano said, noting that a World Cup gives teams more time to prepare.

"It just remains to congratulate Brazil and start to prepare right now, calmly, for the World Cup within a year."

Barcelona's two main sporting papers, Sport and Mundo Deportivo, highlighted the dazzling performance of Neymar, the new star signing for Barca.

"Neymar is crowned," declared the front page of Mundo Deportivo.   

"Brazil and a dazzling Neymar outplay Spain who were without their game," the paper said.

"Champion Neymar," said Sport, over a  picture of the player, arms outstretched and looking to heavenwards. "The new Barca star played an exemplary final and led his side to triumph."

Meanwhile, Spain striker Fernando Torres also said the team would be back next year to win the World  Cup after falling into "disarray" as they were vanquished 3-0 by Brazil in Rio de Janeiro.

"You can't win every time," the 29-year-old Chelsea forward and Spain international said in a post-match interview published Monday on Fifa's web site.

Torres described the defeat as a "blip against a team that played better than us" and said the loss would not change Spain's approach in the future.

Spain did not need the loss as a wake-up call or to motivate the players, he said, but the match served as a reminder of how hard it will be to beat Brazil on their own soil next year, he said.

"That said, in one year's time we will be back here as world champions to defend what's ours," Torres said.

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FOOTBALL

Putellas becomes second Spanish footballer in history to win Ballon d’Or

Alexia Putellas of Barcelona and Spain won the women's Ballon d'Or prize on Monday, becoming only the second Spanish-born footballer in history to be considered the best in the world, and claiming a win for Spain after a 61-year wait.

FC Barcelona's Spanish midfielder Alexia Putellas poses after being awarded thewomen's Ballon d'Or award.
FC Barcelona's Spanish midfielder Alexia Putellas poses after being awarded thewomen's Ballon d'Or award. Photo: FRANCK FIFE / AFP

Putellas is the third winner of the prize, following in the footsteps of Ada Hegerberg, who won the inaugural women’s Ballon d’Or in 2018, and United States World Cup star Megan Rapinoe, winner in 2019.

Putellas captained Barcelona to victory in this year’s Champions League, scoring a penalty in the final as her side hammered Chelsea 4-0 in Gothenburg.

She also won a Spanish league and cup double with Barca, the club she joined as a teenager in 2012, and helped her country qualify for the upcoming Women’s Euro in England.

Her Barcelona and Spain teammate Jennifer Hermoso finished second in the voting, with Sam Kerr of Chelsea and Australia coming in third.

It completes an awards double for Putellas, who in August was named player of the year by European football’s governing body UEFA.

But it’s also a huge win for Spain as it’s the first time in 61 years that a Spanish footballer – male or female – is crowned the world’s best footballer of the year, and only the second time in history a Spaniard wins the Ballon d’Or. 

Former Spanish midfielder Luis Suárez (not the ex Liverpool and Barça player now at Atlético) was the only Spanish-born footballer to win the award in 1960 while at Inter Milan. Argentinian-born Alfredo Di Stefano, the Real Madrid star who took up Spanish citizenship, also won it in 1959.

Who is Alexia Putellas?

Alexia Putellas grew up dreaming of playing for Barcelona and after clinching the treble of league, cup and Champions League last season, her status as a women’s footballing icon was underlined as she claimed the Ballon d’Or on Monday.

Unlike the men’s side, Barca’s women swept the board last term with the 27-year-old, who wears “Alexia” on the back of her shirt, at the forefront, months before Lionel Messi’s emotional departure.

Attacker Putellas, who turns 28 in February, spent her childhood less than an hour’s car journey from the Camp Nou and she made her first trip to the ground from her hometown of Mollet del Valles, for the Barcelona derby on January 6, 2000.

Barcelona's Spanish midfielder Alexia Putellas (R) vies with VfL Wolfsburg's German defender Kathrin Hendrich
Putellas plays as a striker for Barça and Spain. GABRIEL BOUYS / POOL / AFP

Exactly 21 years later she became the first woman in the modern era to score in the stadium, against Espanyol. Her name was engraved in the club’s history from that day forward, but her story started much earlier.

She started playing the sport in school, against boys.

“My mum had enough of me coming home with bruises on my legs, so she signed me up at a club so that I stopped playing during break-time,” Putellas said last year.

So, with her parent’s insistence, she joined Sabadell before being signed by Barca’s academy.

“That’s where things got serious… But you couldn’t envisage, with all one’s power, to make a living from football,” she said.

After less than a year with “her” outfit, she moved across town to Espanyol and made her first-team debut in 2010 before losing to Barca in the final of the Copa de la Reina.

She then headed south for a season at Valencia-based club Levante before returning “home” in July 2012, signing for Barcelona just two months after her father’s death.

In her first term there she helped Barca win the league and cup double, winning the award for player of the match in the final of the latter competition.

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