Skip to content

Confederations Cup preview: Spain, Italy, and Brazil all on display in high-powered World Cup warmup

Jun 12, 2013, 3:16 PM EST

Daniel Alves, David Luiz, Paulinho, Neymar,  Hulk AP

With the competitive World Cup tuneup starting this weekend, it’s time to take a look at who will be participating, where they came from, and how they may fare ahead of the Big One in Brazil next year.

The competition takes place every four years and features all the winners of each regional championship, plus the previous World Cup winners and the next World Cup’s host nation.

That makes eight total teams participating.  The teams are split into two groups of four, with the top two in each group advancing to the knockout semifinals and finals.

It takes place the year before the World Cup every year, and is hosted by the next World Cup host nation, thus it will be in Brazil.

The competition will feature goal-line technology this time around, provided by GoalControl GmbH, and it represents a major step in competitive soccer.  The technology was first used competitively by FIFA in the Club World Cup in 2012, and if this go-around is successful it will be used in next year’s World Cup.

The games in the Confederations Cup will be played out over six different cities in Brazil, with the finals at the Maracana in Rio de Janeiro.

GROUP A:

Brazil:

The Brazilians are in the competition as the host nation for next year’s World Cup, and have taken this tournament extremely seriously.  With the host nation not needing to participate in their usual CONMEBOL qualification, they’ve spent plenty of time preparing for the Cup.  In fact, the Brazilian Football Confederation forced both Dante and Luiz Gustavo to leave Bayern Munich early for preparation, meaning they missed the final of the German League Cup and the chance to complete the treble with their club.

Neymar will be on full display, having recently made a move to Barcelona amid plenty of fanfare.  At just 21 years old, the youngster has 20 goals in 34 international appearances, but has failed to come through under the brightest lights for his country thus far.

Leandro Damiao is the only real injury issue for manager Felipe Scolari, as a thigh injury will keep him out of the competition.  He was replaced on the 23-man roster by fellow striker Jo of Atletico Miniero.

Expectations and pressure will both be at all-time highs, similar to the way it will be a year from now, and anything but victory will be seen as a failure for the hosts.

Mexico:

Mexico are into the competition having won the Gold Cup back in 2011.  Having failed miserably to get points in the most recent rounds of CONCACAF qualifying and sitting in a much more perilous position than they had hoped to be in at this stage, Mexico’s take on this tournament will be an interesting one.  There are many different routes they can travel in the Confederations Cup.  With both Brazil and Italy in their group, it will take a full effort to make it out of the group stage.

Manager Jose Manuel “Chepo” de la Torre has got to figure out a way this team can score goals outside of Javier Hernandez.  With “Chicharito” struggling to carry the weight of the entire team on his back, the squad has gone three straight home qualifiers without scoring a goal.  By the end of their most recent 0-0 draw with Costa Rica, the crowd was calling for Chepo’s firing. If not for the fantastic form of goalkeeper Jose Corona, he may have already been without a job.

Up against another out-of-form team in Italy in the opening round, it will be interesting to see whether the Mexicans take this competition seriously and try to get back on form by throwing everything they have at top teams, or if the experimentation will begin as their manager possibly tinkers with his lineup.

Italy:

Italy qualifies for the Cup having finished second in Euro 2012.  Spain won the competition, but because they already qualified for the Confederations Cup as the World Cup winners, Italy are awarded the Euro spot.  The Azzuri are coming off two disappointing draws, although neither had any real impact on their chances to qualify for Brazil next year, and neither in the end meant a whole lot.

A draw with the Czech Republic in World Cup qualifying last week saw them fail to score but also retain their stranglehold on their group’s top spot.  They also drew with Haiti in a friendly, but manager Cesare Prandelli was tinkering with different formations and just about every star player at least began the match on the bench.

It will be interesting to see how Mario Balotelli recovers from another chapter in his tumultous career against the Czech Republic, where he received 2 yellow cards in 4 minutes.  He exploded on Twitter after the match, angrily rebuking critical fans by telling them anyone who doesn’t support him can root for another team at the Confederations Cup.  It will be quite interesting to see how Balotelli is received in Brazil.  The 22-year-old does have a goal against Brazil in a friendly back in 2011.

Japan:

The 2011 Asian Cup winners are an intriguing side.  Stuck in a pretty tough group and not expected to do much, the Japanese are certainly capable of putting together a surprise performance or two.

Manchester United’s Shinji Kagawa and Keisuke Honda out of CSKA Moscow are the two stars of the bunch, but both are distributors and neither are pure finishers. Striker is actually a position of real concern for the Blue Samurai, although Dutch-Japanese striker Mike Havenaar has emerged as a somewhat viable option up front recently.

Don’t expect Alberto Zaccheroni’s bunch to make a whole lot of noise, but their tournament-opener against Brazil will be a good litmus test to see if they can be competitive with the top of the heap.

GROUP B:

Spain:

The reigning World Cup and European champions are by far the favorites to win the competition.  It helps they were put in a group that offers little challenge, and they will be a shoo-in to make the semifinals.

It’s been 21 matches and 2-1/2 years since Spain has been beaten in any competition, a loss to England back in 2011.

Despite losing Real Madrid’s Xabi Alonso to a groin injury, no worries for manager Vicente Del Bosque.  The squad ranked #1 in the world will replace him in the starting lineup with either Javi Martinez of Bayern Munich or Santi Cazorla out of Arsenal.  Quite a replacement selection I’d say.  Javi Garcia, having just moved to Manchester City, will also miss out on the tournament.

The only real question for Spain is how exactly Fernando Torres will be used, if at all.  The Chelsea frontman has seen an uptick in club form, but whether that will play into Del Bosque’s decisions remains to be seen. Don’t expect anything other than at least a finals appearance and possibly another piece of silverware for the current dominating power in international soccer.

Uruguay:

If you thought the tournament would be full with one fiery striker in Mario Balotelli, you’d be mistaken.  Luis Suarez puts his troubled times at Liverpool in the past temporarily to try and lead Uruguay to the semifinals.

As the winners of the 2011 Copa America, Uruguay get started against Spain in their first match, a tough test.  Manager Oscar Tabarez also has Diego Forlan of Brazil’s Internacional and highly-coveted Edinson Cavani of Napoli at his disposal in the high-powered side.

Tabarez is known to tweak and tinker often, and he will no doubt do his best to try and outwit the Spaniards in Group B’s first and best matchup.

Tahiti:

Ah, Tahiti.  Stuck at 5000/1 odds to win the tournament by betting website William Hill, the tiny Oceanic country and winners of the 2012 OFC Nations Cup are simply looking to get any points they can get their hands on.  It won’t be easy, if even possible.

With a population around 180,000 people, they are the only country making their first Confederations Cup appearance. It’s the first time anyone other than Australia or New Zealand have won the OFC Nations Cup and made it to the Confederations Cup, mainly because Australia moved from the Oceana region to Asia.

Managed by Eddy Etaeta, it will be the feel-good team for all of those not already decided on who to root for, but if they get any points at all in their group, it will come as a shock to all.  But hey, that’s what stories are made of.

Nigeria:

Qualifying through their victory in the 2013 African Cup of Nations, the Super Eagles are back in the Confederations Cup for the first time since 1995.

Nigeria are the wild card of Group B.  Spain and Uruguay are expected to go through, and Tahiti will most likely end up with a goose egg, but Nigeria will hope to challenge the Uruguayans for the second semifinal spot.  Those hopes were dealt a serious blow when Chelsea’s Victor Moses pulled out due to an undisclosed injury.  They will instead have to rely on midfielders John Obi Mikel and Sunday Mbia to lead the squad.

The African nation drew 2-2 with Mexico in a friendly at the end of May, so that provides them with a good barometer on where they stand against the other Confederations Cup countries. With the Spain/Uruguay matches obviously the top matchup in the group, Nigeria’s matches against those two teams will be intriguing, and their match against Uruguay in the second round of play could be a major decider.

SCHEDULE:

Group play will begin this Saturday with Brazil and Japan opening the competition.  Sunday features Round 1 matchups between Mexico and Italy as well as Spain and Uruguay, both incredibly enticing matches.

Round 2 games begin next Wednesday, June 19.  The most intriguing game in that round will be the Nigeria/Uruguay match I mentioned a bit earlier that could decide the second spot in Group B.

The final group round will start Saturday, June 22 and will see the high-powered matchup of Italy vs. Brazil, as well as Japan vs. Mexico that could mean a spot out of Group A if Italy falter.

The semifinals will play Tuesday and Wednesday, June 26 and 27.  The knockout games will absolutely mean marquee matchups.  If things fall as expected, we could be handed Spain vs. Italy and Brazil vs. Uruguay in the semifinals, both fantastic games.

The finals and third-place match will be on June 30.

Latest Posts
  1. Ronald Koeman expects Southampton to bounce back from another “difficult period”

    Mar 2, 2015, 11:16 PM EST

    Ronaldo Koeman, Southampton FC Ronaldo Koeman, Southampton FC

    It’s been a tough run for Southampton, but it’s not the first bump in the road this season.

  2. English FA, Kick It Out report 70% increase in reports of racist abuse

    Mar 2, 2015, 8:30 PM EST

    Reports of racist abuse are up 70 percent, which is actually a good thing, because it’s being reported more than ever before.

  3. John Terry says fighting for his Chelsea future has inspired career-best form

    Mar 2, 2015, 7:15 PM EST

    Jose Mourinho & John Terry, Chelsea FC Jose Mourinho & John Terry, Chelsea FC

    John Terry knows he’s fighting every year for a new contract at Chelsea, and it’s inspired the best form of his career.

  4. 2015 MLS season preview: Chicago Fire

    Mar 2, 2015, 7:00 PM EST

    1024px-Chicago_Fire_Soccer_Club.svg

    Chicago has only made the playoffs once in the past five seasons, but with some big offseason signings, the Fire could cause problems in the East.

  5. Tim Sherwood says if Aston Villa beat West Brom, “we’ll never look back”

    Mar 2, 2015, 6:41 PM EST

    Tim Sherwood, Aston Villa FC Tim Sherwood, Aston Villa FC

    Sherwood’s putting all his eggs into Tuesday night’s derby basket, for better or for worse.

  6. WATCH: Carlos Tevez’s stunning free kick as Juventus, Roma draw 1-1 in Serie A showdown

    Mar 2, 2015, 5:17 PM EST

    Carlos Tevez, Juventus FC Carlos Tevez, Juventus FC

    The title race was minutes from being OVER; it’s still probably over. Tevez’s goal was an absolute beauty.

  7. 2015 MLS season preview: San Jose Earthquakes

    Mar 2, 2015, 5:00 PM EST

    http://www.sjearthquakes.com/ http://www.sjearthquakes.com/

    Last season’s worst team in the West has a new stadium and high hopes for 2015.

  8. WATCH: Midweek Premier League TV schedule – Week 28

    Mar 2, 2015, 3:30 PM EST

    PremierLeagueNBC

    Where and how to watch every single PL game on Tuesday and Wednesday.

  9. WATCH: Bungled tackle in Bundesliga.2 turns into well-hit own goal

    Mar 2, 2015, 3:15 PM EST

    VfL Bochum v VfR Aalen - 2. Bundesliga Getty Images

    The 23-year-old German defender was attempting to win a loose ball, and instead struck a strong ball past his keeper.

  10. 2015 MLS season preview: Montreal Impact

    Mar 2, 2015, 3:00 PM EST

    www.impactmontreal.com/ www.impactmontreal.com/

    After finishing with the fewest points in MLS last season, the only way to go is up for Montreal.

  11. 2015 MLS predictions: Cup winners? MVP? Lampard or Gerrard? Kaka or Giovinco?

    Mar 2, 2015, 2:20 PM EST

    2014 MLS Cup 2014 MLS Cup

    Why wait for the season that might not happen, when we’ve got all the answers for you right now?

  12. Liverpool’s Rodgers: Gerrard back “in very near future”, Ibe out for a while

    Mar 2, 2015, 2:14 PM EST

    Liverpool v Leicester City - Premier League Getty Images

    The captain has been out since Feb. 10, while Ibe was hurt in last week’s Europa League dismissal by Besiktas.

  13. MLS Atlanta makes shrewd hire, bringing in Carlos Bocanegra as technical director

    Mar 2, 2015, 1:30 PM EST

    bocanegra Getty Images

    Bocanegra will work with MLS Atlanta president Darren Eales, who has worked with Premier League clubs West Bromwich Albion and Tottenham Hotspur.

  14. BBC report: Sunderland’s Adam Johnson arrested on suspicion of sex with a 15-year-old girl

    Mar 2, 2015, 12:36 PM EST

    Britain Soccer Premier League AP

    The Daily Mail had reported that three cops cars stormed a Premier Leaguer’s apartment earlier Monday to make the arrest.

  15. Is Rafael van der Vaert closing in on a move to MLS with Sporting KC?

    Mar 2, 2015, 12:22 PM EST

    FBL-GER-BUNDESLIGA-BAYERN MUNICH-HAMBURG Getty Images

    KC only has two Designated Players — Matt Besler and Zusi — and RVDV would be a nice match provided the money works for both parties.

  16. 2015 MLS season preview: Orlando City SC

    Mar 2, 2015, 12:00 PM EST

    Orlando_City_2014.svg

    The Lions will roar into MLS after several successful seasons in the third-tier. How will Orlando fare in 2015?

  17. Premier League Playback: Why Manchester City are throwing away the title

    Mar 2, 2015, 10:06 AM EST

    PST’s Editor and Lead Writer take a look back at Week 27 in the Premier League.