3. Brazil vs Spain – 2013 FIFA Confederations Cup Final
2013 was a significant year for Neymar as he essentially transitioned from being a highly-touted wonderkid to an elite player in world football. He completed his transfer move to Barcelona in May of 2013 and then took part in the 2013 FIFA Confederations Cup in Brazil.
After breezing through the group stage and eliminating rivals Uruguay in the semifinals, Neymar wound up facing his biggest test yet: Spain. This was a Spain team that, although on the backend of their golden generation with the likes of Xavi Hernandez and Andres Iniesta gradually exiting their prime, they still were hungry to add another international trophy to their dynasty. They had already won the World Cup and back-to-back European Championships, so a Confederations Cup title would only add to their grand resume.
Against a starting 11 that featured six future Barcelona teammates and three Real Madrid players, Neymar shined like a gem.
Over the first half, it was clear Neymar’s pace and swift dribbles upfield were too much for Spain to handle. On quick transitions, he exploited open space and drifted into the final third with ease. He terrorized the flanks to the point where Alvaro Arbeloa simply could not man-mark at all. He capped off his first half brilliance with a goal from an extremely tight angle as the shot had so much power that it blew right by goalkeeper Iker Casillas.
The second half mirrored the first as Neymar continued to toy with Spain’s backline. It came to the point where Spain resorted to fouling in an effort to contain his pace, including Gerard Pique earning a red card when he fouled the Brazilian via a slide tackle to halt an odd-man counter-attack.
Brazil won the final on home turf by a 3-0 score. Neymar won man of the match honors to go along with the Golden Ball award for the tournament. For Neymar, this performance is surely memorable as it snapped Spain’s record-setting 29 competitive match unbeaten streak.