Confederations Cup 2013 Schedule: Group Stage Match Previews and Predictions
The 2013 Confederations Cup gets underway this weekend, with Brazil hosting Japan at the newly renovated Mane Garrincha stadium in Brasilia.
The match will be the beginning of what organisers hope will be a two-week test run for next summer's World Cup.
For the sides involved, meanwhile, it is the chance to lay down a marker and familiarise themselves with the conditions that they can expect next summer. For some, it is also a good chance to earn a much-needed confidence boost ahead of coming challenges.
With continent-leading sides, as well as hosts Brazil on show, it should be a short and sweet exhibition of football in some of the world's most iconic football stadia.
Let's then take a look at the fixtures and possible outcomes over the coming days and weeks.
15 June - BRAZIL vs. JAPAN (Brasilia)
The opening game of the tournament will bring great pressure for hosts Brazil against what is a more-than-useful Japan side. In theory, it will be the Selecao's easiest game of the group stage, but it could be a potentially tricky encounter. Prediction: 2-1
16 June - MEXICO vs. ITALY (Rio de Janeiro)
A potentially decisive game in the group, an out-of-form Mexico will take on an Italy side that has swung between the sublime and the ridiculous in recent fixtures. While Mexico may not be scoring, they are also not conceding and could cause problems for the Azzurri. Prediction: 1-1
19 June - BRAZIL vs. MEXICO (Fortaleza)
Both teams will be expected to be fully into their stride by the second game of the group stage and will need to be for what will be a hard-fought clash. Brazil will have to be in form to beat their Latin American colleagues, but can they handle the pressure? Prediction: 3-2
19 June - ITALY vs. JAPAN (Recife)
If Italy are to hold any serious hopes of winning the competition, this is a game they must win. They will be expected to do so with ease, but it will unlikely be easy against the Samurai Blue. Japan coach Alberto Zaccheroni will know his home nation well, but can he help his side to pull off a result? Prediction: 2-0
22 June - ITALY vs. BRAZIL (Salvador)
The biggest match of Group A sees traditional giants Italy and Brazil go head-to-head in what could well be a battle to top the group. Brazil will hope to be on a high after their opening two fixtures but will face an Italy side determined to avoid a possible quarter-final with Spain. Prediction: 2-0
22 June - JAPAN vs. MEXICO (Belo Horizonte)
The outcome of this final group game could depend entirely on results up to this point, with one or both sides potentially already being out of the competition. That said, we can only judge it on paper. Mexico will be favourites for the win, but I fancy the Japanese to earn a point. Prediction: 1-1
16 June - SPAIN vs. URUGUAY (Recife)
The opening encounter of Group B between Spain and Uruguay should offer an insight into the South American side's hopes at the coming event. However, given the Spanish side's dominance of world football in recent years, it is hard to look past them for the win. Prediction: 3-0
17 June - TAHITI vs. NIGERIA (Belo Horizonte)
The first of what is going to be a long three games for Tahiti will see them take on Nigeria's Super Eagles in the Mineirão. The result is not in doubt, and it will merely be a question of how many the African side can score. With goal difference potentially important, they will doubtless go for the jugular. Prediction: 0-8
20 June - SPAIN vs. TAHITI (Rio de Janeiro)
If the Nigeria encounter was going to be tough for Tahiti, then their meeting with Spain doesn't bear thinking about. It will either be compelling or difficult viewing, depending on your threshold for watching others suffer, and could potentially be highly embarrassing for the minnows. Prediction: 15-0
20 June - NIGERIA vs. URUGUAY (Salvador)
The Group B second-place decider between Nigeria and Uruguay will be one of the most eagerly anticipated matchups of the opening phase, with the game almost certainly set to decide which side will reach the semi-finals. Nigeria enter the tournament on a long unbeaten streak and will have Tahiti as a confidence boost first up. Uruguay, though, will bank on having enough quality in attack to down the African champions. Prediction: 1-3
23 June - NIGERIA vs. SPAIN (Fortaleza)
With Spain likely to be virtually assured qualification at this point, there may well be some changes in the La Roja lineup for the encounter. That said, even a much-changed side would be expected to beat Nigeria and will likely do so. The African side's best hope will be to strike early and play on the counter. Prediction: 0-3
23 June - URUGUAY vs. TAHITI (Recife)
The final game of the group stages will no doubt be another long and drawn-out affair for Tahiti, with previous results possibly meaning that Uruguay will be playing to better another side on goal difference. If the Pacific Islanders can keep the score to single digits, they will have done well. Prediction: 10-0
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