Confederations Cup 2013: Breaking Down Top Matchups in Group Play
The 2013 Confederations Cup promises to feature some really excellent football. Who wouldn't get excited about a tournament featuring top squads like Brazil, Spain, Italy and Uruguay?
Add in talented clubs like Mexico, Japan and Nigeria and one club well out of its element but still thrilled to have qualified—Tahiti—and you've got all the makings of a brilliant tournament.
But which games should you be most looking forward to? Which matchups promise to feature some of the top football we'll see down in Brazil?
Let's find out.
Italy vs. Brazil
When: Saturday, June 22 at 3 p.m. ET
Preview: This will be the premier matchup of Group A. Both sides boast a lot of talent, but this should be a cagier, more defensive game than you might imagine, as Brazil are very strong on the back four and Italy haven't exactly set the world on fire in recent play.
While Brazil are terribly dangerous on the counter-attack or if given any space to operate, Italy are plenty comfortable dropping numbers behind the ball and putting forth a defensive wall. And while Mario Balotelli and Stephan El Shaarawy could give Brazil some problems, the back four of Thiago Silva, David Luiz, Dani Alves and Marcelo is one of the more solid units in the world.
In the end, Brazil will control possession but Italy will limit the amount of times they can break free into space. Still, needing only a moment of brilliance or two to win—and with players like Neymar capable of creating them—the Brazilians will get the win.
Prediction: Brazil wins, 1-0
Spain vs. Uruguay
When: Sunday, June 16 at 6 p.m. ET
Preview: A classic clash of styles. It's no secret that Spain like to control possession with their short, quick passing game, while Uruguay are more than happy to sink back defensively and strike quickly on the counter.
And boy, do they have the firepower upfront to make an opponent pay, as Edinson Cavani and Luis Suarez are world-class talents, while Diego Forlan always plays quite well for his country.
Still, Uruguay has struggled in South America's World Cup qualification and currently sits in fifth place, while Spain has won the past two Euro tournaments and the 2010 World Cup. This Spain team may have its question marks—who plays center forward? how strong is the back line?—but Andres Iniesta and Xavi Hernandez are still enough to will Spain to the win, even if Uruguay get on the board.
Prediction: Spain wins, 2-1
Mexico vs. Japan
When: Saturday, June 22 at 3 p.m. ET
Preview: Spain and Uruguay should cruise through Group A, that much seems clear, unless Nigeria can knock off the South American team. But Group B is very, very intriguing, as both Japan and Mexico are capable of escaping even with Brazil and Italy to deal with.
The two teams will meet on the last group match day, meaning one of these teams could advance with a win depending on how both squads play against Italy and Brazil.
Japan is the most underrated squad in this tournament. Boasting two creative forces in the midfield, Keisuke Honda and Shinji Kagawa, and a balanced squad throughout that plays as a very cohesive unit, the Japanese could surprise some people.
For Mexico, the talent is there even if the results haven't been for the senior squad of late, as the team has surprisingly struggled in CONCACAF World Cup qualifying. Still, with talents like Giovani dos Santos, Andres Guardado and Javier Hernandez, Mexico always seems to be on the precipice of becoming a top club in the world.
Prediction: Mexico has struggled to score in World Cup qualifying, but they'll get one here. Unfortunately, so will Japan, and these teams will draw what could be a huge Group B match, 1-1.
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