Hosts are talented but neutrals will hope the world champions defeat the risible Neymar and his team-mates
Sunday's Confederations Cup final at the Maracanã in Rio de Janeiro is the match-up everyone was hoping for, a possible preview of next year's World Cup final with all-conquering Spain pitted against the ever-alluring hosts, even if it is somewhat startling to discover Brazil have slipped to a dismal 22nd in Fifa's world rankings.
They are probably not that bad, just as England were never that good when they briefly made the top three a few months ago, for the prosaic truth is simply that without the need to qualify for the tournament they will be staging this time next year – civil unrest permitting – Brazil have not been playing enough competitive games.
The Confederations Cup matches have certainly been competitive, especially in the knockout stage. The first semi-final between Brazil and Uruguay bore all the hallmarks of a typical South American grudge game, while in the "European" semi, Italy showed a full recovery from their 4-0 humbling by Spain in Kyiv last summer and might have won the game in normal time, or at least made life harder for their opponents, with better first-half finishing. Only a careless penalty by Leonardo Bonucci of Juventus in an otherwise exemplary shootout allowed the Manchester City new boy Jésus Navas to send Spain through with the 14th kick, disappointing a home crowd in Fortaleza who clearly favoured a final against the Italians.
While that might have had something to do with Brazil's fairly comfortable 4-2 win over Italy in the group stage, there was little doubt the majority of the television audience was wholly behind Spain, and not just because the new champions of world football have not met the old ones since the last century.
Most neutrals feel that this Brazil side, though unquestionably talented, could do with being taught a football lesson, and Spain appear the side most likely to do that on Sunday night and next year.
Normally Brazil are the side who pick up the floating voters for their swaggering skill and attacking adventure, but that was before the watching world got a good look at Neymar. If you haven't seen the new Barcelona capture's repertoire of amateur dramatics from the Uruguay game, the internet will not only furnish you with the shocking truth but give some idea of the risibility the much-coveted 21-year-old is already attracting. Cristiano Ronaldo appears stoical by comparison, and on the same pitch in Belo Horizonte the young Brazilian managed to make Luis Suárez look almost saintly.
It is possibly a good thing Neymar will not be coming to the Premier League any time soon because, as one commentator on the Guardian's website neatly put it, Charles Hawtrey was made of sterner stuff. He will struggle in Spain with that level of simulation, though at least he will be going to a club where touch on the ball is valued more highly than out-toughing opponents.
Neymar will be meeting several of his new clubmates on Sunday night, as Spain's recent success has been achieved with a nucleus of Barcelona players, when it will be mildly interesting to see how Real Madrid defenders such as Sergio Ramos and Alvaro Arbeloa react to this posturing attention-seeker. While Barcelona doubtless know what they are doing, there can be little doubt either that Neymar is going to have to tone down his act for Europe.
England, currently a more realistic ninth in the Fifa rankings, are still not sure whether they will be taking part at next year's World Cup finals, but the footage from Brazil must have made uncomfortable viewing in almost every sense. The games were played in 30C heat and high humidity, prompting Arbeloa among others to call for evening kick-offs in the tournament proper, and the generally high-tempo English game never seems to adapt well to such sapping conditions, especially when players arrive tired after a long and demanding domestic season.
Then there is the not-so-small matter of penalty shootouts. England are historically bad at them, and Spain and Italy on Thursday evening offered something close to penalty-spot perfection. Even players who were visibly nervous found the net with unanswerable accuracy. Two of the best goalkeepers in the world never managed to get a glove on the ball as the first 12 shots all went in. The 13th was skied, unluckily for Italy, and though that put Navas under pressure, he responded coolly and reliably.
That level of professionalism, like the World Cup finals, may still seem a long way away to England, at present trailing Montenegro in their qualification group with key fixtures to come against the leaders, Poland and Ukraine, but they are not. This time next year the group stages will already be completed and the first knockout games about to commence. If this is Roy Hodgson's year of judgment, the countdown has begun.