Skip to content

Confederations Cup preview: Your quick guide to each teams’ standouts

Jun 13, 2013, 3:41 AM EDT

500px-FIFA_Confederations_Cup_Brazil_2013_logo.svg

We’ve gone through the teams, and we’ve walked you through the schedule, but for some fans, the big draw to this summer’s Confederations Cup will be stars they don’t otherwise ee in their favorite leagues. In a tournament too young, infrequent and exclusive to carry much competitive prestige, the names on the back may be as alluring as the names on the front.

This year, neither Argentina (with Lionel Messi) nor Portugal (Cristiano Ronaldo) qualified for the quadrennial event, but between Brazil, Spain, Italy, Mexico, and Uruguay, a number of the world’s top talents will still be on display over the next three weeks.

Here’s a small selection of whom to look for – two players per team that may make your Confederations Cup viewing worthwhile.

Group A

Brazil

source: Getty ImagesNeymar (right) – The former Santos star has been the next big thing for so long, it’s hard to believe the time to put up has finally come. With his recent transfer to Spanish titans Barcelona, the 21-year-old attacker will be leaving South America for the first time, set to begin next season with Spain’s reigning champions. With enough skill on the ball to beat anybody one-on-one, Neymar has 20 goals in 33 appearances for Brazil, even if many are still waiting for that goal rate to translate into success against the world’s most prestigious nations.

Thiago Silva - One of the best defenders in the world, Silva will wear the armband for coach Luiz Felipe Scolari’s side, playing between Barcelona right back Daniel Alves and Chelsea left-central defender David Luiz. Expect those teammates, as brilliant as they can be, to give the athletic center half plenty of chances to exhibit has talents. Given what the PSG man has shown during his time in Italy and France, there’s little doubt the 28-year-old can handle the burden.

Japan

source: Getty ImagesKeisuke Honda (right) – Rumors that the dynamic CSKA Moscow attacker will leave Russia this summer make June’s tournament a showcase for the 27-year-old. Capable of playing across the width of the pitch at the level just behind a striker, Honda can be as adept creating as he is finishing chances. In 42 appearances for the Samurai Blue, the attacking midfielder has 14 goals.

Shinji Kagawa – Even though the Manchester United attacker’s already 24 years old, he’s still one of the younger players in Alberto Zaccheroni team, but with a style of play very similar to Honda’s, it hasn’t always proved easy to assimilate the former Borussia Dortmund star into the squad. Like Honda, he can play anywhere across the width of the pitch, and like Honda, he often seems as adept at score goals as setting them up.

Mexico

source: ReutersJavier Hernandez (right) – Your philosophical view about goal scoring likely defines how you feel about ‘Chicharito’, who usually is the frosting, not the cake. When his teams are generating goals, the 25-year-old is usually finishing them. But when teams need him to find goals on his own, Hernández still seems to need another dimension, one that prevents him from being considered among the world’s elite. With 32 goals in 47 appearances, Hernández’s production more than justifies his acclaim, but as Mexico’s waned, so has Chicharito.

Giovani dos Santos – Another mercurial performer, dos Santos may be the most talented player in CONCACAF, form he showed while leading El Tri to the 2011 Gold Cup. While he continues to show that talent at club level, scoring six league goals this past season in Spain for Mallorca, the former Barcelona and Tottenham Hotspur attacker has been unable to replicate that production recently for his national team. Quick, highly skilled, with a great natural instinct on the ball, dos Santos is still an elite talent. It’s just a matter of putting him in the right spots.

Italy

source: APGianluigi Buffon (right) – At 35 years old, Buffon’s amassed 128 caps, yet despite his age, the Juventus icon is still among the best goalkeepers in the world. Since the retirement of defender Fabio Cannavaro, he’s also served as the Azzurris captain, leading the team to the final of last year’s European Championships. While prone to the rare inexplicable lapse, Buffon’s reflexes remain strong, as does his ability to read the game as it approaches goal. His decisions on crosses may reflect some age, but as with all aspects of Buffon’s game, it’s a relative concern.

Andrea Pirlo – Pirlo’s move from AC Milan to Juventus two years ago seems to have revitalized his career, an effect that was on display at last summer’s European Championships, where he was the tournament’s best player (in our estimation). Sitting deep in Cesare Prandelli’s midfield, Pirlo will be provided the protection he needs to be his playmaking best, with others doing the manual labor while he sprays the ball to young attackers like Mario Balotelli and Stephan El Shaarawy.

Group B

Spain

source: APXavi Hernández (right) – One hypothesis for Barcelona’s mild slip in this year’s Champions League: Teams have increasingly focused on Lionel Messi as Xavi has proved less effective at picking apart a defense. The Confederations Cup should prove a good test. Spain is as dependent on Xavi as Barcelona, with no heir apparent for their aging midfield orchestrator. If the Barcelona playmaker’s really transitioning into his career’s final act, his national team should also struggle. Else, Spain will be as formidable as ever.

Iker Casillas - Benched midseason in a political battle with his club manager, Spain’s captain gets back to regular duty in goal on the international level. Along with that comes a chance to show José Mourinho that he’s still the same Saint Iker who has led Spain to two-straight major titles. Perhaps an inflated reputation that cast him atop the world’s goalkeeper rankings has forever been tarnished, but Casillas is still more than capable of being a reliable No. 1.

Uruguay

source: Getty ImagesLuis Suárez (right) – The temperamental forward is coming off a suspension for punching an opponent in World Cup qualifying. His team rallied to win 1-0 in Venezuela on Tuesday, but in the preceding game, Suárez reminded La Celeste how important he was, coming off the bench to score in Uruguay’s 1-0 win over France. Combined with Edinson Cavani, Uruguay rivals Argentina for the top attacking tandem in the world, provided Suárez can keep himself on the field.

Edinson Cavani – If Suárez is the volatile one, Cavani is Mr. Dependable. Tall, skilled, relentless, and versatile, the Napoli man has become one of the best target men in the world, doing the leg work that frees up Suárez to exploit opposing defenses. With his partner absent on Tuesday, it was Cavani that found the goal that gave Uruguay its crucial win in Venezuela. Coming off three straight prolific seasons in Naples, the former Palemo man is drawing attention from Manchester City and Chelsea. A strong tournament could his suitors insatiable.

Tahiti

source: Getty ImagesSteevy Chong Hue – The 23-year-old AS Dragon striker is responsible for Tahiti’s place in Brazil, scoring the goal that won the nation the 2012 OFC Nations Cup – a win that secured the team’s first international title. The only player in the squad born away from Tahiti’s main island, Chong Hue briefly spent time playing low-level Belgian soccer before returning home to play for Dragon. At 23, he has 11 international goals.

Marama Varihua – Varihua, a striker, is the only player on Eddy Etaeta’s roster who plays outside of Tahiti. He’s spent his entire career in France, twice winning the Coupe de France during a six-year spell at Nantes. Born in Tahiti but appearing at U-levels for France, Varihua has also played at Nice, Lorient and Nancy, where he’s under contract today. Capable of playing wide as well as in support of Chong Hue, the uncapped 32-year-old’s contributions could prove key to Tahiti’s chance to earn a point in Brazil.

Nigeria

John Obi Mikel – Only 26, Mikel is one of the young Nigerians’ veterans, with Stephen Keshi naming only four players who are older than the Chelsea midfielder. Normally a holder at club level, Mikel has typically provided more of a box-to-box presence for his country, who he helped lead to this year’s Cup of Nations title. In a group with Spain and Uruguay, his defense may prove more valuable if the Super Eagles are to pull a small upset and advance to the knockout round.

source: APKenneth Omeruo (right) – Another Chelsea talent, Omeruo has yet to make an impact for his club, though for the national team, the 19-year-old started as the Nigerians claimed a surprise confederation title. Only 19 years old, Omeuro just finished an 18-month loan at ADO Den Haag, where he played both on the right and in the middle. While he awaits a decision about where his immediate club future lies, the former Standard Liege prospect will spend his summer in Brazil, starting in the middle of Stephen Keshi’s defense and potentially attracting the attention of a team who can give him playing time next season.

Latest Posts
  1. Ranking the candidates for MLS’s next expansion team (after Atlanta’s Wednesday announcement)

    Apr 16, 2014, 8:57 PM EDT

    MLS Logo

    One location is the clear favor for No. 24, but down to one slot, the competition could pick up.

  2. With Agüero, Negredo removed, should we point the finger at Pellegrini?

    Apr 16, 2014, 7:57 PM EDT

    manuel_pellegrini Getty Images

    Like his players, City’s boss has plenty of questions to answer after Wednesday’s disappointment.

  3. Atlanta, MLS don’t need to quiet doubts to be successful in the Southeast

    Apr 16, 2014, 6:52 PM EDT

    Arthur Blank AP

    If Atlanta, Miami aren’t good sports towns, it may not matter. The doubts critics have cast on the league’s Southeast excursion may be irrelevant.

  4. Real Madrid beat Barcelona to win Copa del Rey, as Bale’s brilliance seals it

    Apr 16, 2014, 5:40 PM EDT

    Gareth Bale AP

    Real win Copa del Rey as Barcelona’s bad run continues:

  5. It’s official: Atlanta gets Major League Soccer’s 22nd franchise

    Apr 16, 2014, 5:26 PM EDT

    Arthur Blank AP

    One more spot in MLS’s planned expansion is gone, with Atlanta set to begin play in 2017.

  6. Manchester City 2-2 Sunderland: Two Wickham goals, late Nasri equalizer leave sides even (video)

    Apr 16, 2014, 4:52 PM EDT

    connor_wickham Getty Images

    Two late goals gave Sunderland a lead, one City pulled back just before full-time.

  7. Everton 2-3 Crystal Palace: Toffees’ top four hopes take huge hit

    Apr 16, 2014, 4:51 PM EDT

    Everton v Crystal Palace - Premier League Getty Images

    Eagles soar to safety, but Everton’s Champions League dreams are in ruins:

  8. Fernando Llorente: Carlos Tévez and I deserve to go to the World Cup

    Apr 16, 2014, 3:37 PM EDT

    Italy Soccer Serie A AP

    Two of Serie A’s most productive scorers may not be at this summer’s World Cup. Llorente wonders why.

  9. WATCH: Premier League Player of the Week – Week 34

    Apr 16, 2014, 2:56 PM EDT

    Philippe Coutinho, Steven Gerrard AP

    Which Liverpool player picked up the Player of the Week accolade?

  10. Watch Live: Manchester City vs. Sunderland (Lineups and Discuss)

    Apr 16, 2014, 2:44 PM EDT

    sergio_aguero Getty Images

    Both sides look to cash in on matches in hand at the Etihad.

  11. Watch Live: Everton vs. Crystal Palace (Lineups and Discuss)

    Apr 16, 2014, 2:25 PM EDT

    Everton v Aston Villa - Premier League Getty Images

    Can Tim Howard and the Toffees win their eighth-straight game? Watch live online, right here:

  12. Ahead of Atlanta’s expected MLS entry, are NFL stadium shares the way to go?

    Apr 16, 2014, 2:00 PM EDT

    Source: AtlantaFalcons.com Source: AtlantaFalcons.com

    Having MLS teams share their home with NFL sides could be a smart move ahead of the next wave of expansion:

  13. WATCH: Premier League Team of the Week – Week 34

    Apr 16, 2014, 1:28 PM EDT

    Liverpool's defense still looked leaky, but a mistake from Kompany saved them. AP

    Find out who made the PL Team of the Week, right here:

  14. Premier League Preview: Man City host Sunderland, Everton face Palace

    Apr 16, 2014, 12:35 PM EDT

    Britain Soccer Premier League AP

    Two PL matches take place on Wednesday, with both set to impact the top and bottom of the standings:

  15. NBC to air all 10 Premier League games on final day in “Championship Sunday” extravaganza

    Apr 16, 2014, 11:15 AM EDT

    nbcsports_new

    Watch all 10 PL games across 10 different channels on final day of the season. All the details, right here:

  16. Revealed: Best quotes from Andrea Pirlo’s new autobiography

    Apr 16, 2014, 11:00 AM EDT

    Andrea Pirlo in a Champions League match for Juventus. AP

    PlayStation, mafia-style fights, Gattuso and not feeling pressure… welcome to the extremely cool world of Pirlo:

  17. Three reasons why Barcelona need to win Copa del Rey final vs. Real Madrid

    Apr 16, 2014, 10:16 AM EDT

    Barcelona Getty Images

    Ahead of their cup final with Real Madrid, here’s why Barca must prevail:

Featured video

PST Extra: Race for the PL title