The 2013 Confederations Cup (June 15-June 30, 2013), in Brazil, will soon be upon us (http://fifa.to/fwqHu). The tourney will not include Germany, but it will consist of the champions of each confederation’s tournament: Nigeria, Japan, Mexico, Uruguay, Tahiti, Brazil (as hosts of the World and Confederations Cups) and Spain as the Euro 2012 winners. Because Spain is also automatically invited as the current World Cup holder, Italy, as Euro runner-up, will also attend.
The two groups have been set: group A consists of Brazil, Japan, Mexico and Italy and group B has Nigeria, Tahiti, Spain and Uruguay. Group winners will meet the other group’s runner ups in the semifinals and the winners of those matches will vie for the trophy. Hosts Brazil are slated as slight favorites over Spain by most odds makers, with Italy, Uruguay and Mexico trailing in order, at substantial and increasingly reduced odds. The other three, Tahiti, Japan, and Nigeria, are thought to be the more likely onlookers this time out.
What is interesting early on is that among four of the top five, Spain and Mexico are bringing their A-teams, while Italy and Uruguay are playing coy and waiting until the last moment to determine their final squads. Favorites Brazil, who have just made their 23-man squad known, have chosen to go without a lot of their major star power. Of note is the fact that 10 of their players are Brazil-based.
The hosts, who have more riding on this tournament than most, since they are not involved in the qualifying rounds for the World Cup and are in desperate need of a tune-up, need a good showing at this event. Yet, their roster is lacking Kaka, Robinho, Pato, Ramires, and Ronaldinho, while including the likes of Hulk and Fred as the main partners for Neymar in attack (http://dailym.ai/10VrzY0). This is essentially the same team that mustered but seven goals while tying Chile, Russia, and Italy, and losing to England earlier this year. They could be ripe for an upset.
Spain, meanwhile, are making sure that the trauma of Jose Mourinho’s mishandling of Real Madrid’s stars does not spill over onto the national team. Iker Casillas is still listed as the team’s captain (http://bit.ly/11aT7tT), Sergio Ramos and Xabi Alonso have pretty much secured their starting roles, and no less than five Madrid players are on the national team. Barcelona, the new La Liga champions, have nine slots on the roster. On paper, this is the strongest team in the tournament.
Mexico, having their problems in the CONCACAF qualifying region for the World Cup, are seeing this tourney as their opportunity for a tune up and a turnaround and have secured the services of their top players well in advance of their first match. The Mexicans have the talent and the motivation to have a great tournament. A good showing against either Italy or Brazil could see them through.
Italy, who have been peaking of late, with back-to-back wins in their World Cup qualifying group and a strong showing against Brazil in that 2-2 friendly, have a real chance of playing the spoiler role. Mario Balotelli is playing inspired football while Stephan El Shaarawy, and Antonio Di Natale are scoring goals galore. Gianluigi Buffon is having a resurgent year and the vaunted Italian defense is making life miserable for all opponents.
Uruguay is coming into the tournament on a downward spiral. They have tied Paraguay and lost to Chile in their last two World Cup qualifiers and are sitting in sixth place (out of nine) on the CONMEBOL qualifiers’ table. But, Edinson Cavani, Diego Forlan, Diego Lugano and the biting Luis Suarez, are having individually productive years and could be ready to put their collective strength on display next month. My feeling is that they are still some time away from pulling a successful reconstruction.
In Group A I think that Italy and Mexico will make life miserable for the Brazilians and that either one has the ability to pull the upset. In Group B, Spain should have an easy time of it and come through on top. This means that we could see a semifinal match-up without the hosts. If Brazil do make the second round, I see them making and then losing the finals to Spain. If the Brazilians do not make it to the second round, I see the Spaniards beating any other team in the finals.