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Brazil beats Italy at Confederations Cup, but protests continue outside arena

Fred scored twice, Neymar adds stunning free kick as host Brazil beats Italy 4-2.
Neymar Brazil Confed CupEnlarge
Brazil's Neymar celebrates after scoring against Italy in a 4-2 victory at the Confederations Cup in Salvador, Brazil, on June 22, 2013. (CHRISTOPHE SIMON/AFP/Getty Images)

Brazil’s convincing victory over Italy at the Confederations Cup on Saturday was only a brief respite to continuing protests in that country calling for widespread reform.

Fred scored twice and Neymar added a magnificent free kick as the hosts beat Italy 4-2 in Salvador.

Yet, in the soccer-mad nation preparing to host the World Cup next year, sports and politics are mixing with increasing regularity.

Outside the stadium, police kept about 1,000 demonstrators away from Arena Fonte Nova using pepper spray and rubber bullets, The Associated Press reported.

A larger group of about 5,000 gathered before the game further away from the stadium, the AP said.
Brazilians are angry over spending on the World Cup, calling instead for better access to education and transportation.

So far, the violence hasn’t affected the games directly, although CNN said the Italian team was told to stay inside its hotel room.

More from GlobalPost: Brazil introduces reforms aimed at quelling protests

Coaches, current and former players aren’t standing on the sidelines when it comes to expressing an opinion, either.

Looking to cheer the nation, the whole Brazil squad sang the national anthem with gusto and then set about chasing an early goal against Italy, Agence France-Presse reported.

The world’s greatest player ever, Pele, even weighed into the fray and called for changes.

“There are a lot of bad characters taking advantage of this opportunity and they are hurting these peaceful protests that have been calling for what is best for the Brazilian people,” he said, according to the AP.

“We can’t allow these bandits and bad characters to get in the way of this opportunity to make demands for our country.”

If the national football team continues to display the form it showed on Saturday, it will be fascinating to watch if the growing shouts will quiet.

Brazil made it three wins in three games at the Confed Cup to earn a probable semifinal match against Uruguay on Wednesday.

Dante scored as the first half expired, and while Emanuele Giaccherni equalized shortly after the restart, Neymar struck his curling free kick to re-stake Brazil's lead minutes later.

Two goals by Fred framed one more from Italy's Giorgio Chiellini to round out the scoring.

Coach Luiz Felipe Scolari told reporters that he’s seeing his team round into form.

“We beat a strong Italian team and I think this shows we are on the right road, even if there are a few things we need to improve,” Scolari said, according to AFP.

The fans, as you can read below, are starting to get excited.

Agence France-Presse contributed to this report.

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