While we’re less one than year away from the first match of FIFA World Cup 2014, the FIFA Confederations Cup starts tomorrow. The tournament, which is a dry-run for the World Cup, features eight teams from around the world competing over two weeks. The teams competing are Brazil, Spain, Nigeria, Mexico, Italy, Japan, Uruguay and Tahiti.
The eight teams represent every confederation, hence the name of the tournament.
Here’s a closer look at the teams that are battling to win the trophy:
Brazil (ranked 22nd) – Playing host nation this time around, the Samba boys will be playing in their own backyard with the most fanatical of football fans behind their back. Felipe Scolari’s troops have won the last two editions of the competition in 2005 and 2009. However with Brazil recently dropping out of the top 10 in FIFA rankings, the normally brilliant side will go into the competition without the ‘favorites’ tag. But with confidence brewing, it would be foolish to rule out any hope for the Brazilians in claiming the title for the 3rd consecutive installment.
Mexico (ranked 17th) – Simply a team that should by no means be underestimated. The Pumas qualified after prevailing against a highly fancied USA side in 2011 Gold Cup, and with their talented crop of players, a magical run may be on the cards despite a very poor performance in the CONCACAF World Cup qualifiers.
Italy (ranked 8th) – Boasting an outfit with a mixture of youthfulness and experience, Italy will prove to be one of the frontrunners in this years competition. Despite a humiliating early exit from the World Cup in 2010, Italy pounced back two years later as they shocked Germany en-route to the European Championships final where they lost to eventual champions Spain. Their resurgence is not over yet and this is the ideal stage to prove their skeptics wrong.
Japan (ranked 32nd) – Despite becoming the first nation to qualify for the World Cup, the Samurai Blues head into this year’s competition as ‘underdogs’. However ever since Alberto Zaccheroni was appointed as coach, the AFC Asian Champions have played 32 matches consisting of 23 wins, nine draws and five defeats.
Spain (ranked 1st) – Undoubtedly favorites heading into the upcoming tournament, they are the current World and European Champions. However if their lacklustre performances of late have been a cause for concern for many Spaniards. Nevertheless, with the team comprised mostly of Barcelona players, and with the side playing under the ‘tiki taka’ philosophy, it’s hard to see anyone standing a chance against them as La Roja look to secure the only international trophy that has eluded them up until this point.
Uruguay (ranked 19th) – The 2011 Copa America winners come into this competition with a chance of coming out with silverware. Boasting an attacking force comprised of the controversial Luis Suarez, Edinson Cavani and Diego Forlan, this side may prove too tough to contain as they look to continue their good form heading into the World Cup.
Tahiti (ranked 138th) – The OFC Nations Cup winners head into the competition as complete underdogs. Not much is expected of them, however the fact that they made it to this competition itself is already an achievement worth praising and a decent outcome from this tournament will definitely put this nation on the footballing map.
Nigeria (ranked 31) – Surprises are not a foreign aspect when it comes to Nigerian football. Their recent Africa Cup of Nations triumph was enough to even surprise themselves, and who know, maybe they could spring a few surprises against the World’s top teams this summer.
Despite security concerns with most of the venues, it has been confirmed that six stadiums will be used to host this summer’s competition.
These stadiums are fashioned in a typical South American style and the fanatical football fans will definitely provide an insight into the party-like atmosphere that will take hold of the country during next summer’s World Cup.
The stadiums are:
Brasilia — Estadio Nacional. Capacity: 71,000
Belo Horizonte — Estadio Mineirao. Capacity: 62,500
Fortaleza — Estadio Castelao. Capacity: 64,800
Recife — Estadio Pernambuco. Capacity: 46,000
Salvador — Arena Fonte Nova.Capacity: 55,000
And last but not least, the infamous…
Rio de Janeiro — Maracana. Capacity: 77,000
Players to watch:
Juan Mata- Spain
His game time may be limited with Xavi, Iniesta and Fabregas all above him in terms of selection order, but the time he gets on the pitch may be vital since he’s such a game changer for club and country.
Edinson Cavani- Uruguay
He is an absolute goal machine. With widespread interest in the player, there is no doubt potential suitors such as Real Madrid and Manchester City will be keeping a close eye on this lad’s performances.
Shinji Kagawa- Japan
He didn’t produce his best football for Manchester United last season due to injury problems. However he has proven to be deadly when fully fit. His recent exploits against Australia in their crucial World Cup qualifier proved that he is, simply put, a world-class player. His combination with Keisuke Honda has particularly proven lethal.
Barcelona’s newest acquisition will be the focal point of media scrutiny throughout the competition. Despite his undoubted talent and skill, he has been out-of-form of late and this competition may prove to be a catalyst needed in getting himself in form again. Not to mention, a tournament from which he will gain vital experience.
Where to watch the Confederations Cup
Matches to watch (Group Stage):
Japan vs Brazil (Saturday, June 15, 2:30pm, ESPN/WatchESPN)
Brazil are undoubtedly favorites heading into this match. Boasting the likes of Neymar, Oscar and Hulk, Scolari’s side have what it takes to be crowned champions. Despite youthfulness, the side evidently lack experience with only three players left over from 2010 World Cup in Dani Alves, Julio Cesar and Thiago Silva. The side still don’t seem to be playing on the same wavelength and a sense of unity needs to be instilled into the player’s mindset. Their recent run of poor form is a worrying sign. However their 3-0 win against France was a timely confidence booster.
Japan go into this match having already secured a ticket to next year’s World Cup. The Japanese side can boast a wealth of experience, an advantage which Brazil themselves lack. The combination play down the middle of the pitch between Honda and Kagawa has proven lethal and their quick counter attacks have the ability in catching the Selecao off guard.
Nevertheless, an enticing match lies ahead. Brazil have fallen to their lowest point since the inception of FIFA ranking, while Japan will enter this match with confidence. Don’t be surprised if the Asian powerhouses progress past the group stage.
Uruguay vs Spain (Sunday, June 16, 5:45pm, ESPN/WatchESPN)
This opening match for both sides may prove vital as they look to progress to the elimination round. On one hand, Spain are World and European champions. On the other, you have a talented Uruguayan side who finished fourth in 2010 World Cup and won the 2011 Copa America.
Uruguay boast a formidable attacking line-up in Suarez, Cavani and Forlan, whilst Spain have been rocked by Xabi Alonso’s injury and also have been unable to find an ‘ideal striker’.
Nevertheless it will be an intense tactical battle. Spain will most likely dominate possession and it will be important that Uruguay play a defensive style of football capable of blocking out Spain’s attacking attempts and frustrating La Roja. However it is equally as important that Uruguay play quick counter attacks that are capable of catching Spain’s defense off guard, as so many teams have done in the past.
Spain will need to be patient in attack. Chances will definitely come, and it is crucial that the chances they are presented with are made full use of.
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