Confederations Cup 2017 Preview
It may not have the illustrious draw of either the World Cup or the Euros, but the Confederations Cup remains a major event for any football fan. It takes place between the six winners of each continental cup, as well as the previous World Cup winners and the next World Cup host. As a result, it remains a somewhat uneven competition, pitting heavy-weights such as Germany and Chile against much weaker teams such as Cameroon and New Zealand, but thankfully those two highest-ranking sides will face each other in the same group. It will take place in Russia, spread across Moscow, St Petersburg, Kazan and Sochi.
The cup was originally instigated by King Fahd of Saudi Arabia, who saw it as a chance for his country to play against the world’s best every two years. The first tournament in 1992 only saw four teams face one another, and all games were played at the King Fahd II Stadium. After 1997, the tournament was taken over by FIFA, who expanded the tournament to 8 games, and moved the time between each tournament to once every four years after 2005.
|Group A||Group B|
One of the main ideas behind the tournament is to give the World Cup host country, Russia, who automatically qualify for the 2018 competition, a chance to play some competitive football together ahead of the main event. For football lovers, it is a chance to see who looks strong ahead of the World Cup, especially in games between the previous winners, the winners of the Euros, and the Copa America. As for New Zealand, Australia and Cameroon, this represents the closest they may ever get to winning the World Cup. Read on now for our full team-by-team preview.
As hosts of the tournament, they will face much higher scrutiny in the local press over how they perform here. The Russian side has been struggling, with a woeful performance in both the previous European and World Cup. In fact, the nation hasn’t won a major tournament since they were the Soviet Union, beating the also-defunct Yugoslavia 2-1 in the 1960 European Nations’ Cup. Yet, as South Africa at the 2010 World Cup showed, there is nothing like hosting a cup to restore national pride and improve a performance. They also face the added challenge of making the fans behave themselves after their antics fighting the English in Marseille last year.
The surefire favourites for this tournament, and possibly still the best team in the world, the Germans are simply incapable of choking when it comes to big matches. With the world’s best keeper (Neuer), some of the strongest defenders (Hummels and Boateng), the most inventive midfielders (Özil, Kroos and Draxler) as well as two of the most lethal international goal-scorers in Müller and Gómez, this Germany side will prove extremely hard to beat. Additionally, if any side wants to take them on, they better do it in 90 minutes, as they have a 71% success rate when it comes to taking penalties (second only to Argentina at 73%).
Since moving to the Asian Cup from the Oceania Federations Cup to play against better teams (sorry Samoa and Fiji), Australia finally won the 16 team tournament two years ago to qualify for the Confederations Cup. While this win sure shows an improvement in quality, they are still very much the underdogs in this competition. Nonetheless, they have a fairly strong leader in Mile Jedinek, who did so well over the past five years for Crystal Palace, and can always rely on the magic of 37 year-old Tim Cahill. After all, who can forget that wonder goal against the Netherlands during the 2014 World Cup? They could surprise us here.
Chile have always given every game their all, running around the pitch with an enthusiasm unrivalled in international football, but only in the past three or so years have they converted that enthusiasm into a title-winning side. Having won the Copa America 2015 and the Copa American Centenario (2016) in the space of two years, the diamond in their pack is Alexis Sánchez, whom if the last FA Cup Final proves anything, knows how to score to win the big games. In addition to their star striker, they have a more than capable keeper in the form of Claudio Bravo, and a great midfielder courtesy of Arturo Vidal. The most likely side to give Germany trouble.
Joint top participants with Brazil – going into the cup for a 7th time – Mexico will be looking to regain the cup for the first time since 1999. In a group with Australia, Cameroon and New Zealand, qualification for the semi-final seems assured, but its hard to say if they have what it takes to beat Germany or Chile. Perhaps experience of this particular tournament will come in handy, with the team relying on the poaching ability of Javier Hernández to carry them through the more difficult fixtures. As the USA get bigger and plan to dominate CONCACAF, this will be Mexico’s way of proving they are still the kings of Central America.
Its easy to underestimate Portugal here, especially in comparison to Germany and Chile, but when Christiano Ronaldo is around, expect the impossible to happen once again. He was the sole reason they (somehow) won the Euros last year, and coming off Champions League Victory (where he was again, the difference), he will want even more silverware to prove to the world that he is finally better than Messi. Additionally, with teammate Pepe in defense, as well as veterans Moutinho and Carvalho in midfield, this Portuguese side surely has what it takes to go the whole way.
The worst ranked club in the competition, currently at 95th in the world, New Zealand know they have a mountain to climb even to get out of the group stage. While Germany have half the Bayern Munich team and Portugal have Real Madrid’s greatest ever player, the best New Zealand have is Bill Tuilloma, currently playing for fifth-placed Marseille. For a team such as New Zealand, made up of a mixture of professional, semi-professional and amateur footballers, the $5,000,000 in prize money – small fry for Germany – represents a great opportunity to invest in their footballing infrastructure. If incentive has any impact on performance, then New Zealand will certainly want to give this tournament a go.
Cameroon saw off Senegal, Ghana, Guinea-Bissau and Egypt to become the fifth winners of the 2017 Africa Cup of Nations, but may find the step up in quality a little too much for them to handle. Long gone is the glory era of 1990, where a brilliant Roger Milla helped propel them to the Quarter-Finals of the World Cup, yet they still have a quality striker in Vincent Aboubakar. Nonetheless, the lack of high-level football for many of these players probably will lead them to being outclassed in a group that contains both Germany and Chile. Nonetheless, they are the most recent continental winners, the memory of fresh victory possibly giving them an edge over their competitors.
Conclusion: Germany clear favourites
The bookies have Germany as the clear favourites for the competition at William Hill, with decent 9/4 odds to win ahead of Portugal’s 5/2 and Chile’s 11/4. Coming in as marginal outsiders are the hosts Russia (7/1) and Mexico (9/1), while Cameroon lag behind at 25/1. If you are particularly deluded, or fancy yourself a long shot, Australia’s odds are a tasty 40/1 while New Zealand are way behind at 200/1. The lack of a clear favorite here is beneficial to the punter, meaning that a great team such as Germany still have pretty decent odds. Other markets worth investing in are the winners of Group A or B, with nice even odds for Germany and Portugal to win their respective groups at Paddy Power.
The first match begins on 17th June between Russia and New Zealand. It will take place at the Krestovsky Stadium, St Petersburg.