Who’s better? Pele’s Brazil or Spain 2013?

Spain celebrate winning the 2010 World Cup final in South Africa'picture: PA
Spain celebrate winning the 2010 World Cup final in South Africa'picture: PA

Watching the Spain v Uruguay Confederations Cup game late on Sunday night, it got me thinking about how the Spain team now compares to the legendary World Cup-winning Brazil side of 1970.

I wasn’t even a twinkle in the milkman’s eye back then, but I spent hours of my childhood watching videos of these footballing artisans at work.

On the face of it, it seems easy to think that there will never be a better team than Brazil 1970 - for starters, they had Pele at the peak of his game, the clinical finishing of Jairzinho, the silky skills of Tostao and the bullet left foot of Rivelino.

They turned scoring goals into an art form and it didn’t even matter that their Achilles heel - a quite atrocious defence and goalkeeper - didn’t even hamper them.

But however good that Brazil side was, their defence was where they differ to Vincent del Bosque’s Spain.

The current World Cup and European Championship holders’ obvious strength is ball retention and way they stroke it about, hardly letting the opposition get a sniff.

But on the few occasions they do lose possession, they work so hard to win the ball back quickly and the pattern starts all over again.

Spain were outstanding in the first half of Sunday’s match and anyone who didn’t know would have thought Uruguay were some minnows packing 10 men behind the ball in a damage limitation exercise.

They are, in fact, World Cup semi-finalists - although critics would argue they have gone backwards since the last tournament - and boast two of the finest club strikers in the world in Suarez and Cavani.

Say what you like about the former, there is no doubting he is world class as his stylish late free-kick proved.

Both had to work hard in stifling heat and humidity - and, at times torrential rain - to get anywhere near the ball and were made to look ordinary by Spain’s solid defence.

Suarez may nutmeg Wigan defenders for fun in the Premier League, but Spain’s old heads were wise to his every move which, of course, included the odd dive.

Even Cavani, courted by several top Premier League clubs, looked out of his depth with little supply, having to run around constantly looking for scraps, although he did miss a reasonable first half chance which could have changed the complexion of the game.

The TV commentators were speculating that the only team they could see standing in Spain’s way would be Brazil. I haven’t seen the South Americans play for a while (I was on holiday when they played England the other week), but I have been disappointed with their style of play.

The Samba stars seem to have compromised the flair they were always loved for with a more solid, European-style approach of the game.

Even back in the days of Zico and Socrates, the one criticism levelled at Brazil was that they struggled with the more physical aspects of the game outside of the Americas and seem to have adopted a more robust approach to the game as a result.

What I would like to see from Brazil is a return to the days of those scintillating skills which I’m sure can be exhibited without losing the more tactical side needed for major tournaments.

Even the outsiders now seem to have experienced coaches who teach them to shut up shop. The crazy days of African defenders sprinting naively out of defensive walls to boot away the ball while the opposition is waiting to take a free-kick are gone.

The Confederations Cup is a nice little dry run for next summer’s World Cup finals and I’ll be interested to see how the rest of the tournament in Brazil goes, especially as there is no World Cup or European Championship this summer.

It should make a nice little time filler while we wait for the domestic season in England to start back up again in August.