The Confederations Cup is often overlooked by fans who believe the season comes to an end when the final whistle blows on the Champions League, and when the Championship playoffs reach their dramatic conclusion.
However, as recent editions have shown, the concentrated collection of excellence that often exists among participants, and the intense nature of competition of the tournament can often afford fans both a fascinating look at some of the world's finest national sides and the chance to see some unlikely matchups and experimental outlooks.
Group A features traditional heavyweights Brazil--the hosts, and Italy, the European Championship’s runners-up. They will both be competing against Asian cup winners Japan and CONCACAF Gold Cup winners Mexico.
Group B will see Spain-the world and European champions, take on the emerging force of Nigeria, fresh from their recent Cup of Nations victory, and Uruguay, who upset the odds to seal the 2011 Copa America.
The three continental forces will be joined by Tahiti, an unlikely addition perhaps, but they earned their place at the high table by winning last year’s OFC Nations Cup.
The event will also offer a chance for the world to get a glimpse of the progress of Brazil's stadia and infrastructure ahead of next summer's World Cup, and perhaps more pertinently, the deadlines of the new year.
Read on to discover my picks for the four semifinal berths, and my prediction for the tournament’s outright winner.