AP Sports Writer
BELO HORIZONTE, Brazil (AP) -- Brazil says the hard-fought win over an experienced Uruguay squad has helped the team mature and gain more confidence for next year's World Cup -- also being staged on home ground.
Brazil struggled to beat Uruguay 2-1 in the semifinal of the Confederations Cup on Wednesday, but coach Luiz Felipe Scolari and his players say there are a lot of positives to take from the match at Mineirao Stadium.
"This is what we're doing at this competition ... we are growing," said Scolari.
Goalkeeper Julio Cesar, who saved a penalty kick when the match was scoreless, says the victory "is going to play an important role in making the team more mature in the future."
"The whole team is improving and this is something we can do when we play against teams like Uruguay and Italy," Scolari said. "When you play against Uruguay it's a different sort of match. There's a lot of rivalry between the two teams and we get a little bit nervous."
Brazil defeated Italy 4-2 in the group stage of the warm-up competition, and the final will be against either the Italians or Spain, which meet in the other semifinal on Thursday in Salvador.
"We are not ready yet. We have to go through this, through all these situations so we can grow up and evolve and reach the most important competition for us, which is the World Cup, in better shape."
Brazil was not able to impose its style and struggled against the defending South American champions. They nearly went down a goal early in the first half when Uruguay was awarded a penalty, but Julio Cesar made the save to keep the hosts in the game.
Brazil got its first goal from Fred before Uruguay's Edinson Cavani equalized in the second half. Defensive midfielder Paulinho scored the winner with a header near the end of the match after a corner taken by Neymar.
"This kind of victory is going to play an important role in making the team more mature in the future," Julio Cesar said. "It was a semifinal in an important competition, against a rival with a very good team, so we have to take a lot of positives out of it."
With experienced players such as Cavani, Diego Lugano, Diego Forlan and Luis Suarez, Uruguay has been one of the best teams in South America in recent years. It finished fourth in the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.
The Uruguayans left the field disappointed with a losing a match in which they played so well.
"Brazil is a great team and it wins even when it doesn't deserve to win," captain Lugano said. "It's a characteristic of this team, it wins even when it shouldn't have won."
Scolari, who led Brazil to the 2002 World Cup title, took over Brazil again last December. The team performed poorly in the first few matches under his command but now is enjoying a five-match winning streak.
"This team will have to face many hurdles and grow up as a team and grow by playing in their own teams more so that they can become more mature," Scolari said. "I would say that we've met our goals, we wanted to make it to the final and to have a team which can give the fans confidence that we can also do well in the World Cup."
He added: "And now our major goal is to win the final regardless of the team that we're going to have to play against."
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