By Mike Collett
RIO DE JANEIRO (Reuters) - Victory over world and European champions Spain in the Confederations Cup final would help Brazil regain lost credibility and respect from their fans, coach Luiz Felipe Scolari said on the eve of Sunday's match.
Four straight wins over Japan, Mexico, Italy and Uruguay en route to Sunday's decider at the Maracana Stadium have boosted optimism that Brazil are building strength in their squad with a home World Cup less than a year away.
Scolari believes handing Spain a rare defeat in a competitive match could galvanize his side's supporters.
"We have overcome a lot of hurdles and we have really grown together over the last 30 days, and for the 15 days in this competition, and it would be great for us to win it," Scolari said.
"Spain are a fantastic team, but they have their flaws and they can be defeated.
"I think what would be so important for us is with a victory we would regain a lot of credibility and respect from our own fans in Brazil."
In defeating Italy 7-6 on penalties in Thursday's semi-final, Spain extended their world record unbeaten stretch in competitive matches to 29 games.
Their last competitive defeat was at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa when they were stunned 1-0 by Switzerland in their opening group match.
"Perhaps at the moment Spain are superior to us," Scolari said. "They have more or less had the same side for five or six years now, and they have won two European titles and a World Cup so they may have an advantage."
Brazil, though, have shown glimpses of past glory during this competition.
Asked what message a Brazil win over Spain would send to the rest of the world just a year before the World Cup finals are staged in the country, Scolari enthused: "A very clear message that we are on the right path for the title in 2014.
"We would show to the world we are among the group of teams who can win the World Cup, but even if we don't win on Sunday as can happen in a football match, I still think we have done a lot this month and now we want to prove it to the Brazilian crowds who have been fantastic and supported us so much."
Scolari guided Brazil to their fifth World Cup final success over Germany in Yokohama on June 30, 2002, and, although he said he did not live in the past or know the dates of all his successes, he would naturally be delighted for another win on the same date.
"The past is the past, it has gone, you have to live for today, but it would be fantastic to win on a special date like that, but more importantly, I believe we have the players who can do it."
(Editing by Tom Bartlett)