Depressed by the summer sports doldrums? Is watching nothing but baseball making your soul die a slow, horrible death? Don't worry boys and girls, it's Confederations Cup time! Eight national soccer teams will gather in South Africa and battle to the death in a preview of next year's World Cup 2010. The tournament is held from June 14-28 and all matches will be televised on one of the ESPN network channels (see schedule at the bottom).
I've included tons of links on key players so if interested, click on them to see amazing feats of skill, brilliant goals and a lot of really cheesy music that was added on by the dorks who posted the video.
Also, the formatting is a little goofy. I would blame myself for my lack of FanPost polish, however it's a lot easier to blame Twist and SB Nation. You guys can suck it!
What is the Confederations Cup?: The Confederations Cup is a FIFA sponsored competition held in the World Cup host country the year before the finals. The participants are the host country, the most recent World Cup winner and the winners of the six continental championships. In recent editions, it has come to be considered as a trial run for the logistics needed to successfully run a World Cup in the host country.
This looks to be Spain’s group to win and win big. This group contains the 6th, 7th and 8th best teams in the tournament and Spain is currently riding high as the world’s best team. Anything less than 3 wins, 10+ goals scored and 0 goals allowed during the group phase would be shocking. Spain’s first real test should come in the Semi Final round. Of the other teams, Iraq looks to be 2nd best although South Africa may use the home soil advantage to overtake them. New Zealand is horrible and is only here because Australia recently moved from Oceania to the Asian zone for better competition and easier qualification for the World Cup.
Iraq- Shocking winners of the Asian zone. Who needs a home field? World Rank: 77
Players to watch for: Nashat Akram, Younis Mahmoud, Hawar Mulla Mohammed
Analysis: This team came out of nowhere to shock the Asian footy universe by winning the Asian Cup in 2007. Traditional powerhouses Saudi Arabia, South Korea, Japan and Iran all fell by the wayside as the team without a home field stormed its way to the title in shocking fashion. Not much is known about their players as they all play in Middle Eastern leagues that get little to no exposure in the West. One exception is Nashat Akram, a recent purchase of FC Twente in Holland who should be their star in midfield. Other players of quality are striker Younis Mahmoud and midfielder Hawar Mulla Mohammed. I think they’ll win 2nd place in group A but have shown themselves to be inconsistent and could lose out to South Africa for a spot in the semi finals if they can’t take care of business.
New Zealand- Oceania champs after beating up on soccer powerhouses such as Vanuatu and Samoa. Proudly holds the distinction of “Most crap team at the Confed Cup 2009”. World Rank: 82
Players to watch for: Shane Smeltz, Chris Killen, Chris Wood
Analysis: The Kiwis have never earned a point in 2 previous Confederations Cup appearances and the chances don’t look good in this competition either. The majority of their team plays in Australia’s A-League, a league considered at best to be third tier. A couple of their players do play overseas and the best of them is probably Chris Killen, a reserve forward for Celtic in Scotland. Shane Smeltz did get 12 goals in the A-League last season so could be a threat if he gets any service and 17 year old Chris Wood looks to be the hope for the future as he has played in the English Premiership for West Bromwich Albion. Still, there isn’t much hope for the All Whites as a recent 2-1 friendly loss to African non-entity Tanzania proved. 4th place in Group A looms.
Go to the 2:13 mark to see:
Spain- European champs. World Rank: 1
Players to watch for: David Villa, Cesc Fabregas, Fernando Torres
Analysis: I think this clip best describes Spain’s footy prowess.
Unbeaten in their last 32 matches, Spain boasts 2 of the worlds 10 best strikers in goal machine David Villa of Valencia and striker prototype Fernando Torres of Liverpool. Their midfield is equally powerful with Xavi (Barcelona), Xabi Alonso (Liverpool) and Cesc Fabregas (Arsenal) creating a powerful attack that supplies many of the goals to Villa and Torres. Missing are injured stars Andres Iniesta and Marcos Senna and they may miss both these players immensely in the later stages of the tournament. Their defense is good but not top class, perhaps only Carlos Puyol is considered one of the world’s best although Sergio Ramos is quite good as well. Iker Casillias in goal is better than average and won’t make any tragic mistakes. Having won Euro 2008 to break their hoodoo curse of being the biggest underachievers in the universe, Spain is confident and seriously en fuego at the moment. They’ll obliterate Group A and should have enough to win this tournament.
South Africa- Host and likely red headed stepchild of the tourney. World Rank: 72
Players to watch for: Steven Pienaar, Aaron Mokoena, Bernard Parker
Analysis: The host team is thanking the footy gods for making sure that New Zealand was drawn in their group as they look to be a team on the downswing. Recent years have not been kind to the Bafana Bafana and they embarrassingly crashed out of the qualifying rounds of the upcoming African Nations Cup in Angola. The squad has few top level players, with Everton midfielder Steven Pienaar being the class of the squad. Portsmouth’s Aaron Mokoena is another quality player but he’ll need a lot of help in defense for South Africa to do much. Red Star Belgrade’s Bernard Parker will likely need to carry the scoring load as superstar Benni McCarthy of Blackburn Rovers has been shockingly left off the team after skipping recent friendlies “to recover from injuries”. It appears McCarthy has played his last game for his home country which is bad news for a team that will struggle to make any impact in this tournament. 3rd place in Group A looks likely unless they can channel some magic on their home turf.
It seems like every major international tournament has its version of the “Group of Death”. I first heard the term used in the 1994 World Cup for the group containing Italy, Ireland, Mexico and Norway, all top level teams at the time. All 4 teams finished with an identical record and goal difference and Norway got the shaft because it scored the fewest goals. Group B is definitely the more difficult of the 2 groups at the ’09 Confederations Cup with what I see as the 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 5th best teams. Italy and Brazil are the easy choices to advance in theory due to their talent and long history of footy brilliance. In reality however, any of these 4 teams could win through given a couple of good performances.
Brazil- Gods of South America. They told the Argies to suck it in the 2007 Copa America. World Rank: 5
Players to watch for: Robinho, Kaka, Alexandre Pato
Analysis: Many people feel that if Brazil was allowed to field 4 national teams, all 4 would qualify among the 32 teams of the World Cup. Supremely talented individually, Brazil’s downfall is usually that of the tactics employed by their coaches or failures in team chemistry. They currently lead South American qualifying for next year’s World Cup but aren’t winning “the Brazil way” enough to suit their rabid fans. Peculiar draws with bottom feeders Peru and Bolivia have been balanced out by a recent 4-0 smashing of their long time bogeyman, Uruguay. Brazil appears to be using the Confederations Cup as a means of introducing some new players to international play so I wonder how seriously they are taking this competition when qualifying is so much more important. Strikers Alexandre Pato (AC Milan- rumored to be headed to Chelsea) and Robinho (Manchester City) should lead the way for Brazil although I think this could be a breakout tournament for Nilmar (Internacional of Porto Alegre). Midfield man god Kaka has just completed a world record $92 million transfer to Real Madrid and is likely the best midfielder on the planet. Julio Baptista and Elano could add goals from the midfield and Gilberto Silva should add toughness as well. In defense, Maicon, Lucio, Juan and Dani Alves are a solid back 4 and if any goalkeeper will challenge Italy’s Buffon as the world’s best, it is Julio Cesar. Capable of destroying any team in the world, I think Brazil is off its game currently and will finish 2nd to Italy in Group B.
Egypt- African Champions. World Rank: 40
Players to watch for: Amr Zaki, Mohamed Zidan, Mohamed Aboutrika
Analysis: Another team that not many know much about is Egypt. The 2 time defending African Nations Cup champion boast an extremely powerful attack but is questionable at best in defense and goal. The majority of their squad is drawn from African club superpowers Al-Ahly and Zamalek although European teams have started to snap up some of Egypts best players at bargain prices. Up front, the supremely talented Amr Zaki moved to Wigan in England last year and took the Premiership by storm in the first half of the season. Sadly, he seemed to lose his way a bit and did not score in the 2nd half of the year amid accusations of unprofessionalism by Wigan’s coaching staff. Another talented striker is Mohamed Zidan of Borussia Dortmund in Germany. A 3rd Egyptian striker of real ability, Mido, has been left off the squad after numerous squabbles between himself and the Egyptian coaches. That could cost this team as Mido is the one player on a real run of form recently. In midfield, it’s all Mohamed Aboutrika all the time. Complementary players Ahmed Hassan and Hosny Abd Rabo will provide support but Al-Ahly’s Aboutrika is a goal machine from the middle of the field. As mentioned, Egypt’s defense will likely be its undoing in this tournament and a recent 3-1 loss in Algeria has put their hopes of qualifying for the World Cup for the first time since 1990 in some jeopardy. I think they’ll finish last in Group B but that might be influenced by my unfamiliarity with them and my American homerism. If they beat out the USA for 3rd, I wouldn’t be surprised at all.
Italy- Reigning World Cup champions. World Rank: 4
Players to watch for: Luca Toni, Gianluigi Buffon, Andrea Pirlo
Analysis: One world describes the current Azzurri squad. OLD. The current World Cup champs average age is about 276 so this World Cup cycle may be their last chance for honors for the next generation or so. While Italy always produces a large number of good players, they usually have at least a couple players of true World Class ability. Unfortunately for Italian fans everywhere, there does not appear to be a true world class player among in their youth ranks. Only American born Giuseppe Rossi looks like he might have that potential and there at least 10 other strikers under the age of 25 that I would take before him right now. That said, this team still has plenty of quality throughout the team even if they are all aged 30+. In my opinion, goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon is the best in the world right now and he can keep his team competitive in any game. In defense, Fabio Cannovaro and Gianluca Zambrotta are still very strong despite their near geriatric condition. Their midfield is strong as well with the bulldog Gennaro Gattuso, the talented Daniele De Rossi and free kick assassin Andrea Pirlo running things. Up front, man mountain Luca Toni is still their best striker with the aforementioned Rossi probably the next best choice despite his inexperience (Alberto Gilardino might be pissed off by this opinion). I have a feeling this could be the last hurrah for the Italians and with Brazil struggling a bit, I can see them squeaking out of Group B in 1st place and an eventual Finals appearance against Spain.
United States- Champs of the North America, Central America and Caribbean region. World Rank: 14
Players to watch for: Michael Bradley, Josy Altidore, Landon Donovan
Analysis: Ahhhh, Estatos Unitos. The US limps into the Confederations Cup on the heels of a 3-1 thrashing at Costa Rica and a somewhat fortunate 2-1 win at home against Honduras. Injuries are currently hampering the squad with forward Brian Ching, midfielder Maurice Edu and defenders Steve Cherundulo and Frankie Hejduk out injured. The result leaves the US with some significant holes to fill and with superpowers Brazil and Italy up first, I would be shocked if the team doesn’t deploy a 4-5-1 system that errs on the defensive side. Josy Altidore will probably be on his own up front although Landon Donovan, Clint Dempsey, Charlie Davies and Conor Casey may see some time there as well. The midfield is manned by Michael Bradley, an emerging star and he’ll likely be paired with Ricardo Clark as holding midfielders. The Honduras match saw a promising return from Benny Feilhaber who had a disasterous move to Derby County in England which saw his form vanish. If he can get his confidence back, Feilhaber is an interesting choice in midfield. Both Donovan and Dempsey are better suited to the wings at the international level and former wonderkid Freddy Adu as well as intriguing new play Jose Francisco Torres provide additional options. Neither play much defense though so may only be seen as late subs if some offensive punch is needed. The defense is led by captain Carlos Bocanegra (hopefully recovered from an injury suffered in the Honduras match) and man mountain Oguchi Onyewu, both of who are solid at this level. One wonders if a nuclear explosion will occur if Onyewu (6’4”, 210lbs) and Italy’s Luca Toni (6’5”) collide during the USA-Italy match. The outside of defense is problematic however with injured starters Cherundulo and Hejduk both unavailable. Hopefully Jonathan Spector and Jonathan Bornstein will get the starts over Marvell Wynne and Heath Pearce but stranger things have happened. In goal, Tim Howard is above average and could keep the US in games they might not normally be in. The US team has traditionally played Italy and Brazil very tough (the US-Italy 2006 World Cup match was by far the best game in that tourney) but I don’t see anywhere close to enough quality to get the team into the semi finals. They should battle Egypt for 3rd place in Group B, a battle that could go either way but hopefully the US will be able to put some goals past Egypt’s porous defense.
Group A: 1. Spain 2. Iraq 3. South Africa 4. New Zealand
Group B: 1. Italy 2. Brazil 3. USA 4. Egypt
Semi Finals- Italy def. Iraq; Spain def. Brazil
3rd place- Brazil def. Iraq
Finals- Spain def. Italy
Group A: 1 Spain 2 South Africa 3 Iraq 4 New Zealand
Group B: 1 Brazil 2 USA 3 Italy 4 Egypt
2009 Confederations Cup TV SCHEDULE on ESPN
All times EASTERN
Schedule is subject to change
Date Time (ET) Networks Match
9:55 a.m. E2/360/Mo. TV South Africa vs. Iraq
2:25 p.m. E2/360 New Zealand vs. Spain
9:55 a.m. E2/360/Mo. TV Brazil vs. Egypt
2:25 p.m. E1/360/Mo. TV USA vs. Italy
9:55 a.m. E2/360/Mo. TV Spain vs. Iraq
2:25 p.m. E2/360/Mo. TV South Africa vs. New Zealand
9:55 a.m. E2/360 USA vs. Brazil
2:25 p.m. E2/360/Mo. TV Egypt vs. Italy
2:25 p.m. E2/360/Mo. TV Spain vs. South Africa
1:00 a.m. E2/360* Iraq vs. New Zealand
*(Game will air live on ESPN360 on Saturday, June 20, at 2:25 p.m.)
2:25 p.m. E1/360/Mo. TV
2:25 p.m. E2/360/Mo. TV Egypt vs. USA
2:25 p.m. E1/360 Italy vs. Brazil
2:25 p.m. E1/360/Mo. TV
Confederations Cup 3rd Place Match and Final on ESPN2
8:55 a.m. E2/360/Mo. TV 3rd Place Match
2:25 p.m. E2/360/Mo. TV Final
E1 – ESPN
E2 – ESPN2
360 – ESPN360.com
Mo-TV – ESPN Mobile TV