The Confederations Cup begins June 15th and ends with the final June 30th. Don’t know what the Confederation Cup is? Well imagine the champions of the six continents, the champion of the island nations of Oceania, and throw in the reigning World Cup champion all playing each other in a tournament every four years and you have an ideal of what the Confederations Cup is.
The Confederations Cup 2013 is being hosted by Brazil and will be one of the most exciting tournaments since it will be hosted in a soccer mad country. During the tournament the entire country will literally be on holiday as all TVs will be on the games. This will give the host country a great look at their team and what potentials it has in next year’s World Cup 2014 Brazil. However, the history behind the tournament goes beyond just a preview to a World Cup.
In 1992 and 1995, Saudi Arabia hosted a tournament called the King Fahd Cup (Confederations Winners Cup or Intercontinental Championship), and invited some continental champions from the six different FIFA confederations. FIFA took over the tournament in 1997 and renamed it the FIFA Confederations Cup and staged the competition every two years. But since 2005, FIFA has held the tournament every four years, the year prior to each World Cup in the host country of the upcoming World Cup. This tournament basically became a dress-rehearsal for the up coming World Cups.
The host country benefits from this on two levels. A nation who is awarded the hosting duties of the World Cup will go two years without any meaningful games other than friendlies since they are given an automatic place at the World Cup that they will host and therefore will not need to go thru the qualifying process. On the hosting side, the World Cup Committee gets an opportunity to do a practice round and see if they are prepared for the World Cup and see what possible improvements need to be made.
At this year’s FIFA Confederation Cup Brazil 2013, the teams that qualified for the tournament are as follows: Brazil (automatically is the host nation), Spain (World Cup holder), and the six continental champions. This year’s representative from the continental champions are, Italy (EURO runner-up since Spain was the champion), Japan (AFC Asian Champion), Mexico (CONCACAF Champion), Uruguay (CONMEBOL Champion), Nigeria (CAF African Champion), Tahiti, yes Tahiti, (Oceanian Champion).
With this type of level of teams playing in the Confederations Cup, Brazil will truly be tested and be able to find out if they are ready for the World Cup as a team and as a host nation. For those new to the game, be ready to see something completely different. Brazil loves two things, their futbol and their country’s carnival time. This will make for a party atmosphere at every game and entertainment at every corner of the country.
The Confederations Cup is set up into two groups stages. The first and second place teams from each group will each advance to the second round just as it is in the World Cup. Group A consists of Brazil, Italy, Japan, and Mexico. Group B consists of Nigeria, Spain, Tahiti, and Uruguay.
Breaking Down the Teams
Group A is easily the stronger of the two groups with host Brazil likely to advance to the second round, but three very tough soccer powers of Italy, Japan, and Mexico will vie for the second spot.
Brasil – The host country for the tournament and the five-time World Cup champions have a formidable team and will be the favorite to come out of Group A. Brazil plays a very skillful, entertaining, and unique style of soccer led by a slew professional players who are the top of their game such as Neymar, the newest Barcelona player in that heir apparent Brazilian soccer royalty as well as Oscar and David Luiz from Chelsea and Alves from Barcelona. Brazil won the last Confederations Cup in 2009 narrowly defeating the United States, the same team U.S. team that upset Spain in the tournament, before falling to Brazil 3-2 in the final.
Italy – The European soccer power, four-time World Cup champion and 2nd Place finisher in the European championship only qualified for the tournament because Spain the European champion has already qualified as the World Cup champion. The defensive minded Italians won the World Cup in 2006, but didn’t advance past the first round 2010 and look to improve on that for a strong showing in the Confederations Cup. The Italians are led by one of the best goal keepers in the world and current Italian captain – Gianluigi Buffon, outlandish and immature striker Mario Balotelli and midfielder legend Andrea Pirlo.
Japan – Actually is almost as passionate about soccer as they are baseball and has dominated Asia’s soccer landscape along with South Korea and have a chance to advance to the second round if they can upset Brazil on June 15th, the first game of the tournament or defeat Italy. Japan plays a creative smooth style of soccer which is highlighted by quick and silky passing. Japan is led byKeisuke Honda who plays for CSKA Moscow and Shinji Kagawa who plays for Manchester United.
Mexico – The soccer crazy country south of our border has perhaps the most talented squad in modern history, but they have been static and lacked goal scoring opportunities as they have woefully underperformed in the last six World Cup qualifying games with five ties and one win in which they barely defeated Jamaica. This was supposed to be Mexico’s warm-up for a long run in World Cup next year, but the cries for the firing of Mexico’s current national coach, José Manuel de la Torre, will grow deafening loud if Mexico stumbles in this year’s Confederation Cup. Mexico is led by a team full of players from their youth team champions and Olympic gold medalist such as the dynamic Chicharito who plays for Manchester United, Giovani dos Santos and Andres Guardado both currently playing in Spain, but perhaps the best player recently is goalie Guillermo Ochoa who must continue to play stellar for Mexico to have a chance.
Group B is led by Spain perhaps the best team in the world, Spain who should advance to the next round which will leave Uruguay and Nigeria vying for second while Tahiti will be left to return home to its warm and beautiful beaches after the first round.
Nigeria – One of the most dominant and physical African teams in soccer history has struggled recently as the rest of Africa has caught up with them in the world soccer. Coach Stephen Keshi’s team succeeded in winning the AFCON Finals with only two players over the age of 25. The Super Eagles as they are known in Nigeria are led by midfielder John Obi Mikel from Chelsea and winger Victor Moses is also his club mate at Chelsea. Nigeria has a legitimate chance of advancing with their physical and dramatic style of play if they can draw with Spain or upset Uruguay.
Spain – The current defending World Cup champions as well as the European champions and number one team in the world are in dominant form and should be the heavy favorites in this year’s Confederations Cup. Spain’s dynamic style of ‘total football’ and precision passing has dominated the world of soccer recently, but age is catching up to them, most of the players are over 30. Spain should be a shoe-in for the second round with the majority of soccer fans hoping for a Spain-Brazil final. Spain is led by a squad full of house hold names with the likes of Iniesta, Xavi, Torres, Villa, Fabregas, Casillas who play for all the top clubs of Europe.
Tahiti – Is the only team eliminated from qualifying for World Cup 2014, that being said it is still remarkable that this small beautiful island nation was able to qualify for the tournament even after Australia the perennial Oceania champion was moved to the Asian group. Although Nigeria, Spain and Uruguay all should make quick work of Tahiti they will all be sure to schedule friendly matches with them as an excuse to visit the tropical paradise. Tahiti has only one player, Marama Vahirua playing abroad at Panthrakikos FC (Greece).
Uruguay – The two-time World Cup champions in 2010 World Cup surprising semi-finalist have a strong squad and look to be a favorite to return to Brazil in 2014. The Uruguayans are known for their dynamic and attacking style of play led by talented and controversial forward, Luis Suarez of Liverpool, perhaps you’ve seen him on SportsCenter biting another player. Suarez is accompanied by Napoli forward Edinson Cavani to make one of the top forward line in the tournament.
CONFEDERATIONS CUP 2013 SCHEDULE – All games will be on ESPN and/or ABC
06/15 Brazil vs Japan
6/16 Spain vs Uruguay
6/26 and 6/27
Finals and Third Place Match