The Confederations Cup is perhaps the most underrated football tournament there is. Contested every four years as a “World Cup warm up” or “dress rehearsal” it features the winners of the CONMEBOL Copa America (South America), UEFA European Championships (Europe), CONCACAF Gold Cup (North America/Caribbean), CAF Cup of Nations (Africa), OFC Nations Cup (Oceania), AFC Asian Cup (Asia), the previous World Cup winner and the coming World Cup hosts. This year sees Brazil showcase the competition and features the relative minnows of Tahiti (with odds as low as 5000-1) in the same group as arguably the greatest national team of all time, Vincente Del-Bosque’s Spain. One thing is for certain, when this year’s tournament starts on Saturday it definitely wont be boring!
A brief history
The Confederations Cup was originally founded in 1992 as the King Fahd Cup hosted by Saudi Arabia. It was made up of Argentina, USA, Ivory Coast and Saudi Arabia and was the only tournament not to feature a group stage. Argentina won this inaugural cup beating Saudi Arabia in the final 3-1. The 1995 competition was extended to 6 teams as all the winners the 5 confederation tournaments (minus OFC) were joined by Saudi Arabia again for a group stage. Denmark, winners of the 1992 European Championship beat Argentina 2-0 in the final of the last King Fahd Cup.
In 1997 FIFA took over the competition renaming it the Confederations Cup as it continued to be hosted every 2 years. During this period the Cup was in somewhat seen as an inconvenience with France and Germany twice choosing not to participate. It has also been seen as a chance to blood in young players to the senior squad leading to 2 French wins, 2 Brazilian wins and 1 for Mexico. Realising the competition was not being taken as seriously as hoped in 2005 FIFA changed the cycle to every four years as the World Cup curtain raiser. In South Africa in 2009 Brazil recorded their 3rd win which bring us to this year’s tournament...
|First Winners in 1997: Brazil|
Brazil kick things off against Japan in Brasilla, the potential pace setter for the rest of the championships and judging by the hosts’ squad their intentions are to win the whole thing. The same can be said about all the teams who this year have sent full sides, for Spain and Italy the clash with the European Under 21’s in Israel means bedding in youth is not possible. Spain’s hunt for a new front young frontman must go on hold as the usual reliance on David Villa and Fernando Torres continues with an average age of 27.7. Cesc Fabregas is likely to play some part in that “false number 9” role though as Del Bosque gets his team ready to defend the World Cup next year, becoming the only manager to win 3 consecutive major tournaments and back to back World Cups.
Italy is the country whose domestic league is best represented with 34 players out in Brazil who make their living there, followed by the Spanish league with 25, Tahiti with 22 and then the English divisions with 19. Italy are also joint top with Tahiti when looking at which league their squad ply their trade in, Cesare Prandelli picking 22 out of his 23 man outfit.
|Spain and Uruguay tussle in their opening match on Sunday|
The game to look out for from the group stages is certainly Spain v Uruguay on Sunday evening. An opening match neither side will want to lose it’s hopefully going to be a cracker!
Who are my players to watch?
Personally I’m a big fan of Milan/Italy’s Mattia De Sciglio, the 20 year old full back has 3 caps for his country but is very much one for the future, should he have a big tournament here then expect some of Europe’s wealthiest clubs to start sniffing.
His fellow Milan and Italy teammate Stephen El Shaarawy will be hoping to impress playing along with Mario Balotelli making up 2/3rds of Il Trio Delle Creste. Rumor has it Milan will cash in on El Shaarawy as Man City continue to show interest and Vice-President Adriano Galliani said “We never said he is not for sale". I will be gutted to see the break up of Milan’s promising front three but am equally excited to see him in the Premier League should that move go ahead!
For Brazil the obvious one that comes to mind is of course Neymar, after completing his mega money move to Barcelona the superstar’s first football since will be back in his own country. He has the weight of a nation on his young shoulders as the mood in Brazil for the approaching World Cup is pessimistic to say the least.
Nicolas Lodeiro is one of Uruguay’s creative forces behind Luis Suarez and Edinson Cavani. He struggled at Ajax where he spent 2 years but now back in South America with Botafogo, Uruguay will be relying on some top performances from Lodiero.
Finally, Hector Herrera of Pachuca and Mexico is one to watch. The 23 year old was widely admired by Sir Alex Ferguson and stared at last year’s Olympics. Porto look favourites to snap him up, Pachuca will be desperate or him to add a few million onto his price tag!
Who do The Football History Boys fancy?
Well this is what the bookies are saying:
Brazil 7/5 (Favourite)
Gareth - Uruguay
Ollie - Spain
Ben - Brazil
What do you reckon?? Comment below!!!
Gareth TFHB (follow me on twitter @GJ_Thomas and @TFHBTop250)