World Football's 5 Biggest Confederations Cup Upsets of All Time
The ninth edition of the FIFA Confederations Cup begins this Saturday (June 15) having come a long way from its previous incarnation as the King Fahd Cup.
Since FIFA took control of the competition in 1997, the tournament has gone from its bi-yearly run to its current holding once every four years—since 2005—where it now acts as something of a dress rehearsal ahead of the following year's World Cup.
Inviting the winners of each of the six FIFA confederation championships, as well as the World Cup holders and the host nation, it now offers the opportunity for early bragging rights ahead of the main event the following summer.
However, through the course of time, since it's evolution from the four-team tournament it was back in 1992, there have been a number of relative shocks, with the presumed favourites being left defeated by supposedly lesser foes.
With that in mind, here's a look at five of the biggest Confederations Cup upsets since it became an eight-team affair.
Let's take a gander shall we:
Mexico 4-3 Brazil: Mexico City, Mexico 1999
Vanderlei Luxemburgo's Selecao had eased their way into the final, winning their three group matches without conceding a goal before terrorising Saudi Arabia in the semi-final, chalking up an 8-2 victory.
Mexico's semi-final had been less straight forward, an extra-time golden goal from the thrilling Cuauhtemoc Blanco giving them a 1-0 victory over North American rivals United States.
On paper, the Brazilians were favourites, but Mexico started the game on the front foot, testing Dida early on and taking a mere 13 minutes to find the opening goal: Blanco's pass dissected the Brazilian defence and the onrushing Miguel Zepeda flicked the ball up before clipping a shot straight at Dida, who managed to tip the ball into his own goal when he really shouldn't have even been troubled.
That lead should have been doubled four minutes later, Blanco heading past the hapless Brazilian keeper, only to have his effort disallowed (wrongly) for offside by the linesman.
Mexico needn't have worried however, for in the 28th minute they did indeed double their advantage, with Blanco again involved, this time teeing up Jose Manuel Abundis to drive home from 18 yards; 2-0, dreamland for Mexico.
Nevertheless, in five crazy minutes either side of half-time that dream threatened to turn into a nightmare. Serginho coolly converted a penalty in the 43rd minute, sliding the ball past Jorge Campos, before half-time substitute Roni equalised two minutes into the second period, tapping home a Ronaldinho centre.
However, ahead of the new post-France 1998 and pre-2002, this Brazilian defence was an absolute mess, a cacophony of catastrophic errors waiting to happen. Mexico, sensing attack was indeed the best form of defence, reclaimed their lead just four minutes after being pegged back, Zepeda turning home after some statuesque defending.
In the 62nd minute, Blanco scored the goal his performance deserved. A Brazil free-kick fell to pieces and was swiftly countered upon and Blanco, the coolest person in the Azteca, finished with aplomb.
Ze Roberto would make it 4-3 no more than a minute later, but despite late efforts at pressing for an equaliser, Brazil were unable to equalise again and a talented Mexico held on for a deserved victory in the second Confederations Cup final.
Australia 1-0 Brazil: Ulsan, South Korea 2001
Four years previous, Brazil and Australia had met in the final of the 1997 Confederations Cup. The Socceroos, led by Terry Venables, were comprehensibly annihilated by Mario Zagallo's world champions, with Ronaldo and Romario both helping themselves to hat-tricks in a 6-0 victory in Saudi Arabia.
In the years immediately prior to Brazil's 2002 World Cup triumph in Japan/South Korea, the Selecao were hardly recognisable from the side which would ride to success under Luiz Felipe Scolari in the Far East. Of the 11 players who would start in this third-placed play-off in Ulsan, only goalkeeper Dida and defender Edmilson would be regulars 12 months later. Head coach Emerson Leao would, of course, also be gone.
As such, make no mistake that this was far from a classic Brazil side. It wasn't.
Right-back Ze Maria was a homeless man's version of the legendary Cafu, and the front line composing of Magno Alves, Ramon and Washington was lacking in traditional Brazilian quality. The injury to Sonny Anderson early in the tournament had left them startlingly short in that area.
Nonetheless, Frank Farina's Australia were not a side blessed with anything like the same technical quality, regardless of whether they were facing Brazil's A, B or C team. However, a side of workmanlike professionals made up for their lack of fantasy by being well-organised, determined and with a refusal to back down. Such attitude saw Messrs. Popovic, Vidmar, Chipperfield, Zane, Zdrillic and Lazaridis remain the equals of their opponents throughout.
And in the 84th minute, Farina's side took the lead. Stan Lazaridis, then with Birmingham City, swung across a free-kick from the right, which was met at the far post by an unmarked Shaun Murphy, another first-division player at the time with Sheffield United, who powered his header past Dida.
With Murphy's solo goal, Australia secured victory and a third-place finish, and one of the five best Confederations Cup shocks, if not actually due to the perceived quality on the pitch, then certainly because of the names atop the paper.
For Brazil and Leao, it marked a parting of ways and the arrival of Felipao—the rest as they say, is history.
Brazil 0-1 Cameroon: Paris, France 2003
A tournament that will forever be overshadowed by the untimely death of Cameroon midfielder Marc-Vivien Foe during their semi-final match with Colombia, saw the African nation shock reigning world champions Brazil at the Stade de France in the opening match for both sides.
Missing star forwards Ronaldo and Rivaldo, Carlos Alberto Parreira's side lacked attacking threat, young powerhouse Adriano and the uber-talented Ronaldinho making little impact against a solid African defence, marshalled by skipper Rigobert Song.
Under the leadership of German coach Winnie Schaefer, the Indomitable Lions packed their defence before looking to transition quickly into attack, utilising the pace and movement of Samuel Eto'o and the muscle of Mohamadou Idrissou to cause problems to an uncertain Brazilian back four.
A scrappy first half, fought mostly in a midfield area lacking inspiration saw neither side able to force any real clear-cut openings; a wonderful solo run from the aforementioned Ronaldinho in injury time the exception rather than the rule, but his shot drifted harmlessly wide.
Song, Foe and Geremi offered Cameroon experience and composure throughout, and gradually they took a greater grasp on proceedings. They had beaten Brazil on the way to their 2000 Olympic Games gold medal in Sydney, and the likelihood of a repeat only increased here.
Adriano was hooked in the 62nd minute, the then-Parma striker replaced by Ilan, but Brazil continued to do little more than huff or puff. But for the efforts of Ronaldinho, they lacked guile, particularly in a central midfield area comprising Kleberson and Emerson.
Thimothee Atouba replaced Foe, offering the African champions an outlet on the left, while Joseph-Desiree Job came on upfront to add further movement in between the lines, allowing Eto'o to play on the shoulder of the last man.
It was a game always likely to be settled by a mistake or a moment of otherwise unwarranted quality. In the 83rd minute, both arrived, and Cameroon were delighted.
A goal-kick from Dida was headed back in his direction by Modeste M'Bami, and when Lucio misjudged the flight of the ball, Eto'o slammed home a scorching 25-yard volley which gave Dida no chance and ensured a somewhat surprising opening defeat for the previous year's World Cup winners.
Cameroon would go on to reach an emotional final against France, following Foe's death in the semi-final. Though they would lose 1-0, Foe's presence would be felt throughout. Thierry Henry scored the only goal, but France skipper Marcel Desailly and his counterpart Rigobert Song would lift the trophy aloft together as a sign of mutual respect and remembrance.
That night would feature many tributes to the tragic 28-year-old Foe, but perhaps the most fitting was a banner which read: "A Lion never dies, it only sleeps."
Egypt 1-0 Italy: Johannesburg, South Africa 2009
African champions Egypt had run Brazil close in their opening match at the 2009 tournament, eventually succumbing to a 4-3 defeat by Dunga's men, but they did secure a surprise win in their second match as they recorded a memorable 1-0 win over world champions Italy.
Back in the care of Marcello Lippi, the coach who had led them to success in the 2006 World Cup, the Italians had beaten the United States 3-1 in their opener, Giuseppe Rossi coming off the bench to net twice against the country of his birth.
Nonetheless, this was a fine Egypt side, arguably the finest African side of the last 20 years, in the midst of three successive Cup of Nations triumphs.
Led by the unpredictable but talented Mohamed Zidan and national hero Mohamed Aboutrika, the Pharoahs displayed no fear and gave as good as they got in the early stages. Rossi was a lively presence for Italy but he could only fire over the bar on 11 minutes, while his 24th-minute drive was ably dealt with by Essam El Hadary.
That apart, chances throughout the first half were firmly at a premium, and Egypt were more than a match for their more illustrious European opponents.
Indeed they took the game to the Azzurri, and in the 40th minute had the goal that their efforts duly deserved. A wonderful dipping corner from Aboutrika found the head of the unmarked Mohamed Homos, who, having evaded the marking of Daniele De Rossi, planted a powerful header in off the far post from no more than eight yards.
The second half would see Italy offer more in the way of attacking pressure; Vincenzo Iaquinta's exquisite first touch when clean through on goal wasn't matched by a finish, El Hadary able to smother at the Juventus striker's feet, while an Andrea Pirlo free-kick would go just wide.
Aboutrika continued to threaten, often engineering space for himself with clever movement and footwork; a powerful effort from range would fly over Buffon's crossbar.
Iaquinta and Riccardo Montolivo would both force the inspired El Hadary into further saves, before a cross from the lanky striker would strike the frame of the goal. El Hadary had been stranded, but got the luck his performance deserved.
Joyous scenes greeted the final whistle, the north African side having claimed three points which placed them in pole position for a place in the next round.
However, things wouldn't work out that way, with a 3-0 defeat to the U.S. in their final match, leaving them bottom of the group and ensuring America's passage into the knockout stages at the expense of both these sides.
Spain 0-2 USA: Bloemfontein, South Africa 2009
Perhaps the biggest shock of all saw Bob Bradley's United States arrive in the 2009 semi-finals supposedly without a hope against the reigning European and soon-to-be world champions Spain, but they stunned Vicente Del Bosque's side with a 2-0 victory.
La Roja had cruised through their group, winning their three matches without conceding a goal. Additionally, they were in the midst of a world-record 15 straight victories, as well as a 35-match unbeaten run. Buoyed by their success at the previous summer's European championships in Austria/Switzerland, they quite simply looked unbeatable.
Certainly, Bradley's side weren't meant to give them any trouble. That the U.S. had even reached the semi-final was nothing short of miraculous, such was how they had got there.
A poor performance saw them lose 3-1 to world champions Italy in their opening match, which was followed by a 3-0 hiding from Brazil in their second match, where they were comprehensively outplayed and outclassed. Nonetheless, a 3-0 decimation of Egypt, matched by Italy's collapse against Brazil by a similar scoreline in the final group matches, saw USA advance ahead of the Azzurri on goals scored.
The term "skin of their teeth" hardly does it justice.
And having barely made the knockout stages, the U.S. were resilient, dynamic and downright frustrating opponents for the Spanish. With tiki-taka in its infancy, Spain registered 56% of possession and 29 shots (eight on target) but were unable to deter a committed United States.
A Charlie Davies bicycle kick flashed wide early on, signalling their intentions, while Clint Dempsey also went close. In the 27th minute, however, they claimed the lead.
19-year-old striker Jozy Altidore, then on the books of Villarreal in Spain, brushed past his club colleague Joan Capdevila before striking past Iker Casillas to open the scoring in the 27th minute—only the third goal conceded by Spain in their last 17 matches.
Spain increased the tempo and asked questions of the U.S. defence, but Tim Howard and his back line stood firm. Fernando Torres and Sergio Ramos both missed chances, while Fabregas came close twice with long-range efforts.
Pinned back for much of the second period, the U.S. made the most of their one and only attacking surge and scored their second goal in the 74th minute: Landon Donovan squared from the right side of the penalty area to Clint Dempsey, who fired into the net.
A late red card for Michael Bradley—easily attributed to over-eagerness at the end of a tenacious display—was the only sour note for the Americans on an excellent night. They would go on to lose 3-2 in the final to Brazil, having taken a 2-0 lead.
For Spain, "this is an accident, a little step backward," exclaimed Vicente Del Bosque at the time, reported by BBC Sport. He wasn't wrong.