FIFA’s Confederations Cup has demonstrated precisely why major international tournaments should be held in football crazy nations. The crowds in Brazil for this tournament which has previously been viewed by many a pundit as glorified friendlies has helped give the tournament a feel that was missing in many of the previous editions of this tournament.
An attempt has been made to make this event relevant to the masses of football fans across the planet. For the first time in recent memory the UK media is actively engaged in covering the tournament. In 2009, every match was on in the United States but the coverage is enhanced this go-round which compliments the general growth of the game in the nation over the past four years. When the United States beat Germany in the 1999 Confederations Cup, I had to follow the game via text commentary and months later got to properly see the match. Such was the anonymity and identity crisis this tournament suffered back in the day.
In 2009, the tournament got lots of hype in the United States especially following the USA’s 2-0 shock semifinal win over Spain, but the context of the victory to this day remains missing. Was it a meaningful victory, a blip on Spain’s otherwise flawless record over the past six years or simply an American win in a glorified friendly after the USA had struggled to get out of the Group Stage?
Italy’s 4-3 victory over Japan yesterday where the Japanese did everything but get a result was arguably the greatest match in the history of this tournament. The riveting drama had the feel of a World Cup knockout stage match largely because of the contribution of the Brazilian crowd. Japan, a side I personally rate highly and have stated previously would be the best non-European or South American side at World Cup 2014 won lots of supporters over even if they were eliminated from the tournament yesterday.
The Azzuri who should be a genuine contender to win World Cup 2014 will benefit from the “walk-through” aspects of the Confederations Cup as they prepare for next summer’s big show. But this tournament has me thinking that in the future the Confederations Cup should be held in separate locations from the World Cup to generate energy and enthusiasm during the actual event.
FIFA has labored to make this event relevant to the world of football. The best way to do so would be to rotate this tournament among footballing nations and not take it to Qatar for instance in 2021. It for example could be a major tournament brought to England before the next round of bids for the World Cup (2026 and 2030) is received and determined. FIFA should strongly consider de-linking this event from World Cup hosting and allow it to breathe on its own.