While Neymar captured the plaudits, Fred was the host’s unsung hero once again as Brazil downed mighty Spain in the Confederations Cup final in Rio de Janeiro’s Maracana Stadium.
The striker, who plays for Rio de Janeiro club Fluminense, stunned the world and European champion with his second-minute goal, and he also scored Brazil’s third in their 3-0 win at a Maracana packed with more than 73,000 mostly yellow-clad fans. He left the pitch in the 80th minute to a round of noisy applause.
Most special match
“This has without a doubt been the most special match in my life given its importance, its greatness,” Fred said.
At 29, Fred looks older to many football fans, but that is only because he has had a long career that continues to be highly successful at the Rio de Janeiro club Fluminense, which has its home in Maracana.
“Maracana is a second home for me, it is where I wrote some of the most beautiful pages of my story in football,” he said ahead of the final.
As examples, he cited his first goal for Fluminense, and the first goal after the renovation of Maracana, which he scored on June 3 against England. He will without a doubt add to the list his brace against Spain.
The Confederations Cup has shown him as a prolific goalscorer, with five goals in as many matches, and as an opportunistic striker who will not take no for an answer inside the box.
“A centre-forward has to pay attention,” he said on Sunday.
In the semifinal against Uruguay, he netted the ball off a rebound, after the Uruguay keeper deflected Neymar’s close-range shot.
On Sunday, he provided further evidence of his persistence when he scored his first goal as he fell, in a scramble. The stunner probably went a long way towards ensuring that Spain never got into the match. “I was hoping to score with a header, but I did not manage to get to the ball,” Fred said. “I fell, but I kept my eyes on the ball and I tried to shoot.” During the Confed Cup, it also became apparent that Fred is in the process of building an impressive attacking partnership with the rising star of the “verdeamarela,” Neymar, whom Fred describes a “a very special player.” Neymar, who scored Brazil’s second goal, was named ‘man-of-the-match for the fourth time and voted player of the tournament as he lived up to his star billing.
Fred in contrast was not named man-of-the-match and neither was he on the shortlist for the Golden Ball award despite his goals.
A native of Teofilo Otoni, a city in the state of Minas Gerais, Fred rose through the youth ranks of Belo Horizonte club America Mineiro, and it was also with them that he became a professional in 2002.
In 2004, he changed teams but not cities as he moved to Cruzeiro, one of Brazil’s most popular clubs.
He is well-known to European fans from his stint of more than four years with Olympique Lyon starting in 2005, during which he won the French championship three times.
Fred returned to Brazil in 2009 and joined Fluminense. He was declared the best player in the 2012 Brazilian championship, which Fluminense won, and he was also voted the best striker in the 2013 championship.