The best from each region of the world will meet in this year's Confederations Cup, hosted by Brazil. And boy, should it be a fun tournament.
The world's top side, Spain, will be representing Europe along with Italy. Two exciting, attacking teams from South America, Brazil and Uruguay, will like their chances. And then there are the talented by underdogs such as Mexico, Nigeria and Japan.
And Tahiti. This could be a rough tournament for Tahiti. Let's preview the entire tournament so you don't miss a dribble, pass or curling shot on goal.
When: Saturday, June 15 to Sunday, June 30
Where: Brazil (Belo Horizonte, Brasilia, Fortaleza Recife, Rio De Janeiro, and Salvador)
Group A: Brazil, Japan, Mexico, Italy
Group B: Spain, Uruguay, Tahiti, Nigeria
Brazil automatically qualified as hosts, while Spain qualified as reigning world champions.
Japan qualified by winning the 2011 AFC Asian Cup, Nigeria qualified by winning this year's Africa Cup of Nations, Italy qualified by reaching the final of the 2012 Euros (since Spain automatically qualified), Mexico qualified by winning the 2011 Concacaf Gold Cup, Tahiti qualified by winning the 2012 OFC Nations Cup and Uruguay qualified by winning the 2011 Copa America.
|Saturday, June 15||3 p.m. ET||Brasilia||Brazil vs. Japan|
|Sunday, June 16||3 p.m. ET||Rio De Janeiro||Mexico vs. Italy|
|Wednesday, June 19||3 p.m. ET||Fortaleza||Brazil vs. Mexico|
|Wednesday, June 19||6 p.m. ET||Recife||Italy vs. Japan|
|Saturday, June 22||3 p.m. ET||Salvador||Italy vs. Brazil|
|Saturday, June 22||3 p.m. ET||Belo Horizonte||Japan vs. Mexico|
|Sunday, June 16||6 p.m. ET||Recife||Spain vs. Uruguay|
|Monday, June 17||3 p.m. ET||Belo Horizonte||Tahiti vs. Nigeria|
|Thursday, June 20||3 p.m. ET||Rio De Janeiro||Spain vs. Tahiti|
|Thursday, June 20||6 p.m. ET||Salvador||Nigeria vs. Uruguay|
|Sunday, June 23||3 p.m. ET||Fortaleza||Nigeria vs. Spain|
|Sunday, June 23||3 p.m. ET||Recife||Uruguay vs. Tahiti|
|Wednesday, June 26||3 p.m. ET||Belo Horizonte||Group A Winner vs. Group B Runner-Up|
|Thursday, June 27||3 p.m. ET||Fortaleza||Group B Winner vs. Group A Runner-Up|
|Sunday, June 30||12 p.m. ET||Salvador||Third-Place Game|
|Sunday, June 30||6 p.m. ET||Rio De Janeiro||Final|
Spain will come into this tournament as the favorite, having won the last two Euro tournaments and the 2010 World Cup. Led by world-class talents such as Andres Iniesta, Xavi Hernandez, Cesc Fabregas, Iker Casillas, Sergio Ramos and Gerard Pique, the Spaniards are the most technically skilled team in the world and are certain to be feared.
Hosts Brazil, which has won the last two Confederations Cups, will fancy their chances. While the Brazilians are always known for playing an exciting, attacking and beautiful brand of football, the team will have one of the best defenses in the tournament with Thiago Silva and David Luiz up the middle and Dani Alves and Marcelo on the outside.
Not that they don't have world-class midfielders or attackers, of course—perhaps you've heard of that new Barcelona signing, Neymar. He's pretty good. So too are players like Hulk, Oscar and Lucas Moura.
Italy always seems to play well in major tournaments and will challenge Brazil in Group A, a loaded group that also includes a talented if underachieving (at the moment) Mexican side and Japan, an underrated team led by creative midfielders Keisuke Honda and Shinji Kagawa.
Don't sleep on Uruguay or Nigeria, either. The Uruguayans have one of the most dangerous attacks in the world, led by elite strikers Edinson Cavani and Luis Suarez, while Nigeria finally lived up to its vast potential by winning this year's Africa Cup of Nations.
This promises to be a very exciting and very competitive tournament that should be played at a very, very high level. It's going to be fun, folks.
Which team will win the Confederations Cup?
Death, taxes and Spain playing well in major tournaments—these are life's certainties. Spain will win Group B, with Uruguay advancing as well. It's hard to bet against the hosts in Group A, especially after Brazil won in convincing fashion against France in a recent friendly, while Italy will maintain their habit of advancing in big tournaments.
In the semifinals, Spain will tiki-taka its way past Italy in the all-European affair, while I think Uruguay will shock Brazil and prevent the final between Spain and Brazil that everyone wants to see.
Look for the Brazilians to finish third by beating Italy, while Spain will win another major tournament, defeating Uruguay.