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. Premier League Preview: Newcastle United vs. West Ham United

    May 22, 2015, 3:20 PM EDT

    Newcastle United v West Bromwich Albion - Premier League Getty Images

    If the Magpies win they will survive on the final day. Watch them host West Ham live on USA, online via Live Extra, 10 a.m. ET.

  2. Report: Bad-boy Dani Osvaldo linked with move to New York Red Bulls

    May 22, 2015, 2:52 PM EDT

    Dani Osvaldo, Inter Milan Dani Osvaldo, Inter Milan

    Are the Red Bulls willing to take a risk on Osvaldo to bolster their attacking options?

  3. Premier League Preview: Hull City vs. Manchester United

    May 22, 2015, 2:08 PM EDT

    Tottenham Hotspur v Hull City - Premier League Getty Images

    Can the Tigers pull off a “great escape” on the final day? Watch live on NBC at 10 a.m. ET on Sunday.

  4. Louis van Gaal believes David De Gea will stay at Manchester United

    May 22, 2015, 1:20 PM EDT

    Liverpool v Manchester United - Premier League Getty Images

    The Red Devils boss is confident DDG will be around next season.

  5. TV SCHEDULE: Premier League finale – 10 games, 10 channels on Championship Sunday

    May 22, 2015, 12:40 PM EDT

    CFnp4ZXUMAEF99h

    Here’s how and where to watch every PL game on the final day of the season.

  6. Geoff Cameron takes us behind-the-scenes at Stoke City

    May 22, 2015, 11:15 AM EDT

    Geoff is finishing the season strong and is working on his upper-body. Geoff is finishing the season strong and is working on his upper-body.

    In his latest blog, our man in the PL gives us a glimpse of what life is like at Stoke’s training ground.

  7. MLS gossip: Del Piero, Cisse, De Rossi all linked with moves to the US

    May 22, 2015, 10:30 AM EDT

    UEFA Champions League Final - AC Milan v Liverpool Getty Images

    It’s that time of year again ladies and gents. Get ready for the rumors regarding European veterans heading to MLS.

  8. David Luiz hits out, dismisses reports of him being a “virgin”

    May 22, 2015, 9:56 AM EDT

    FBL-FRA-LIGUE1-LIGUE2-UNFP-AWARDS FBL-FRA-LIGUE1-LIGUE2-UNFP-AWARDS

    The Brazilian defender wants to put the record straight. David, over to you…

  9. Jose Mourinho, Eden Hazard win Premier League Manager, Player of the Year awards

    May 22, 2015, 9:00 AM EDT

    After already winning two trophies this season, Chelsea cleaned up once again.

  10. Brendan Rodgers insists Raheem Sterling will remain at Liverpool

    May 22, 2015, 8:20 AM EDT

    Liverpool Training Session Liverpool Training Session

    After Sterling’s agent says his client will not sign a new deal at Liverpool, Reds boss is adamant he will remain at Anfield.

  11. MLS preview: Sounders vs. Sporting KC, Revs vs. D.C. United headline Week 12

    May 22, 2015, 7:45 AM EDT

    Dom Dwyer, Sporting Kansas City Dom Dwyer, Sporting Kansas City

    The MLS weekend is upon, and that means just one thing, Americans: It’s time to support your domestic league.

  12. Agent: Rafa Bentiez “would be truly happy” to manage Real Madrid

    May 22, 2015, 12:02 AM EDT

    Rafael Benitez, SSC Napoli Rafael Benitez, SSC Napoli

    Firing one of the world’s elite managers, so you can hire a good-but-not-great replacement? Not smart, Real Madrid, not smart at all.

  13. Scholes: If De Gea leaves, Manchester United should sign Petr Cech

    May 21, 2015, 10:57 PM EDT

    Petr Cech, Chelsea FC Getty Images

    According to Scholes, the solution to Man United’s goalkeeping problem is a no-brainer.

  14. Emmanuel Adebayor given compassionate leave after revealing suicidal thoughts

    May 21, 2015, 9:47 PM EDT

    Emmanuel Adebayor, Tottenham Hotspur FC Emmanuel Adebayor, Tottenham Hotspur FC

    Well done to Tottenham Hotspur for showing the necessary compassion and taking care of one of their own.

  15. US Open Cup draw: Sounders-Timbers, NYCFC-NY Cosmos highlight possible 4th-round clashes

    May 21, 2015, 8:24 PM EDT

    US Open Cup trophy Getty Images

    The draw for the 4th round of the 2015 US Open Cup tossed up a couple of absolute doozies on Thursday night.

  16. Hodgson: England very happy to take Jack Grealish from Ireland, if he so chooses

    May 21, 2015, 7:23 PM EDT

    Jack Grealish, Aston Villa FC Jack Grealish, Aston Villa FC

    Jack Grealish has a big decision to make in the not-so-distant future, and it’s going to affect the course of the rest of his career.

  17. War of words: Henry, Giroud trading jabs over Thierry’s “dull” punditry comments

    May 21, 2015, 5:29 PM EDT

    Olivier Giroud, Arsenal FC Olivier Giroud, Arsenal FC

    Thierry Henry is riding Olivier Giroud very hard these days, claiming Arsenal will never win a PL title with him leading the line.

  18. Poland federation president calls for Russia to be stripped of 2018 World Cup

    May 21, 2015, 3:25 PM EDT

    ZbigniewBoniek Getty Images

    Qatar isn’t the only World Cup host to make others upset.

  19. Trio of corporate sponsors denounce FIFA for migrant worker conditions in Qatar

    May 21, 2015, 2:33 PM EDT

    FIFA World Cup trophy Getty Images

    Sponsors hold the one true key to change in Qatar, and strong words are a start.

  20. Final day looming in Spain, France to decide Champions League places

    May 21, 2015, 1:50 PM EDT

    Gignac Getty Images

    Many European leagues have spots in the big dance still up for grabs.

Featured video

PST Extra: Relegation drama on final day