The ninth edition of the FIFA Confederations Cup gets underway on Saturday with hosts, and defending champions, Brazil kicking off the tournament against Asian champions Japan.
A prelude to next summer's World Cup finals, it provides an opportunity for the South American nation to show that the infrastructure is ready. For football supporters across the globe, it acts as something of a precursor as to what we can expect from certain teams next year—assuming of course they are all present and accounted for.
With the likes of continental powerhouses Brazil, Spain, Italy, Nigeria, Japan, Mexico and Uruguay all involved—not forgetting the 1500-1 underdogs Tahiti—the tournament promises much in the way of good football.
Therefore, with all that in mind, here is an attempt at predicting the future. The tournament may not have begun, but let us see if we can pick a Confederations Cup "Best XI" before the action gets underway.
Vincent Enyeama (Nigeria)
If Stephen Keshi's Nigeria are to make an impression in Brazil and navigate their way beyond the group stage, then the 30-year-old African Cup of Nations-winning captain Enyeama will have to present a formidable last line of defence.
Giorgio Chiellini (Italy)
The no-nonesense defender has had another fine season at the heart of Juventus' title-winning defence. Having been forced off injured early on in the Euro 2012 final loss to Spain, he will undoubtedly be looking to make the final here, where I'm sure he wouldn't mind another crack at Vicente Del Bosque's side.
Lucas Moura (Brazil)
With 25 caps to his name already, the 20-year-old winger is already an important part of Felipao's squad. An excellent five months at PSG have added to his blossoming reputation, calls for his promotion to the Selecao starting line-up continue to grow also. Direct and lightning quick, he's potentially a major difference maker.
Javier Hernandez (Mexico)
The Manchester United striker has an outstanding international record, with 32 goals in 49 international appearances. His movement and finishing prowess will keep opposing defences on their toes and will always give Mexico a chance.
Perhaps the world's premier goalkeeper over the course of the last 15 years. The man is now 35, but having seen off a persistent back injury which was troubling him a few years ago, you wouldn't know it.
With 128 caps to his name, as well as a wide variety of honours be it at international, personal or club level, the Juventus stopper is still going strong.
Capable of breathtaking saves, Buffon isn't as flashy nor perhaps as agile as he used to be—come on, the man is 35—but he more than makes up for it with his experience and astute positional sense.
Captain of the national team, if he can organise from the back and the Azzurri can find some inspiration going forward, then they have a chance of success both later this month, and heading into next year's tournament.
The Benfica skipper may not have experienced a happy end to the season at club level—the Portuguese giants finished second in the league and lost in the finals of both the Portuguese Cup and Europa League—but he remains one of the most underrated full-backs around.
A vital part of Uruguay's success at both the 2010 World Cup and the 2011 Copa America, the tough-tackling defender has 75 caps to his name at the time of writing.
His flexibility and positional sense have long been key in allowing Oscar Tabarez to utilise various different formations, be it 4-4-2, 3-4-3 or 5-4-1.
No matter the system or his position on paper, opponents will certainly know they've been in a battle against the diminutive powerhouse.
There may still remain question marks over the defensive prowess of the Real Madrid left-back, but there are few players who offer the same level of attacking threat from that position as Marcelo.
His concentration may occasionally wonder, but his speed in transition—both from an attacking and defensive point of view—and quality in possession make him one of Brazil's most important players. Indeed, there are few wingers with the variety of tricks as the former Fluminense man has at his disposal.
How he links up with Neymar could well prove vital to the Selecao cause this month. Expect a solid tournament from the 20-cap defender, as he looks to nail down his place ahead of Atletico Madrid's Filipe Luis.
The Paris Saint-Germain defender and Brazil captain is the rock at the heart of Luiz Felipe Scolari's side.
And with the Selecao still searching for their own definitive style, he'll need to be at his most resolute for them to appease the home support with at least an appearance in this summer's final.
Strong, quick and an excellent reader of the game—technically he isn't bad either—it is little wonder why the 28-year-old is first choice for his country, nor why PSG were so happy to spend €42million to secure his services last summer.
The brilliant Neymar may be the great hope of this Brazilian side, but Thiago Silva is every bit as vital. If Brazil do satisfy their supporters this summer, you can bet the former AC Milan stopper will have played a key part.
From flying full-back to dominant centre-half, Ramos has made the transition to the centre of the Spanish defence with relative ease and little fuss.
With 102 caps to his name, the defender has played his part in Spain's twin European Championship and World Cup triumphs and he'll be looking to do likewise in Brazil, both this and next summer.
Now 27, the uber-talented defender should be approaching his peak as he adds more experience marshalling a defence and further refines his ability.
A scary thought for a player who has already enjoyed the kind of success that most player's can only dream about.
Like a fine wine, Andrea Pirlo continues to get better with age; how AC Milan must rue handing him a free transfer two summer's ago.
The reference point for Italian regista in the modern game, the man christened "l'architetto" (the architect) by his peers, Pirlo continues to be an integral part of the Azzurri. His calm demeanour and imperious passing ability are a staple of Cesare Prandelli's midfield.
Always a couple of steps ahead, although he has never been the quickest, his understanding of the game ensures that his positioning is rarely anything but flawless and that he is always readily available to receive a pass.
Over the past ten years, everything that has been good about the Azzurri has tended to go through the playmaker, as his Man of the Match display in the 2006 World Cup semi-final and final and his three Man of the Match awards at Euro 2012 will attest. It is likely, that he'll be central to any success once again.
Perhaps the pre-eminent defensive midfielder in world football today, for all his play-acting Sergio Busquets is a mighty fine footballer. And just maybe the biggest compliment you can pay to the 54-cap 24-year-old is that you tend to notice him more when he isn't playing.
Quick to spot danger before it occurs, he's always well positioned to intercept or make a tackle. When his side has the ball, he's always available to receive the ball and always gives the pass at just the right moment to offer his target as much time and space as possible. Like Pirlo, he sees the big picture and is always thinking a couple of steps ahead.
When he's unavailable, neither club nor country seem to have the same level of cohesion—for the former, witness any occasion where Alex Song started in the Busquets role this season, for the latter take a look at the tape of Spain's win over Haiti—either in defence or when starting attacks.
Hailed as "enormously outstanding" by teammate Xavi Hernandez and "one of the greatest talents given to Spanish football" by Cesar Luis Menotti, Busquets is a tactical and technical dream.
It is no surprise that in the knockout stages of international football tournaments, Spain are yet to concede a goal with Busquets on the field, such is his ability to both keep possession and to nullify potential danger.
When Spain need someone to produce a moment of magic on the big stage, Andres Iniesta is the man they turn to.
Age 29, Iniesta has won pretty much everything there is to win and the Confederations Cup represents an opportunity for the Barcelona man to get his hands on a different prize.
One of the defining midfielders of a generation, his ability to recycle possession or just as easily drive at the heart of an opposing defence with the ball at his feet is unmatched.
Spanish fans can expect another big tournament from Iniesta, a player who scored the winner in the 2010 World Cup final and was man of the match in last year's European Championship final.
A magnificent performance against Australia last week culminated in Honda netting an injury-time penalty which ensured Japan's spot in Brazil for next summer's World Cup.
The CSKA Moscow man has 14 goals in 42 caps, and his ability to scheme and create from his position at the centre of the Blue Samurai's attacking triumverate has allowed him to shine under Alberto Zaccheroni.
Still only 26, the man known as "Emperor Keisuke" in his homeland will need to be at his most potent if Japan are to make it past the group stage. A few swings of his sledgehammer left foot may help.
Love him or loathe him, there can be no doubt that Luis Suarez is an absolutely fantastic footballer.
Perhaps not as clinical as he should be in front of goal—although he still netted 30 times in 44 games for Liverpool last season—it is his all-round game which makes him such a talent.
Full of guile, inventiveness and wonderful close control, he is a defender's nightmare and his work ethic ensures that they don't get a moments peace with him around.
Brilliant at the 2011 Copa America, if Suarez is at his best in Brazil this month, then expect la Celeste to navigate their way past the group stage.
Moreover, if his teammates can put their World Cup qualification struggles to one side and find their best form as well, Suarez could just give them the edge which makes them potential tournament winners.
The weight of a nation rests on the slender shoulders of the 21-year-old and now is the time for the exceptionally talented forward to show that he can deal with such potentially overwhelming pressure.
Capable of breathtaking shows of skill and beating defenders as though they were statues, Neymar is a vital part of Scolari's Brazil. His vision and spacial awareness allows him to create opportunities for others, whilst he is also an excellent finisher when presented with the whites of a goalkeepers eyes.
Simply put, he has the 'X' factor. Barcelona have paid €57million because they believe as much.
Nonetheless, there remains doubt in the minds of some, who see him as no more than a show pony.
If he can prove himself to those doubters with some big performances, then Brazil will have a chance of winning the competition on home soil and will in turn buy the under-fire Scolari some breathing room.