Confederations Cup 2013 Odds: Handicapping Every Country's Chances
The 2013 Confederations Cup kicks off on June 15 when host nation Brazil faces Japan.
Each of the eight teams taking part have earned the right to compete for the international prize. As the games get closer, bookmakers' odds are becoming clearer. Who will win the tournament? Can Tahiti reach the final? Will Japan shock everyone and emerge victors of Group A?
Read on to consider these questions alongside some handicaps that might just swing where the trophy ends up.
The Confederations Cup will be tough going for Tahiti.
Currently ranked 138th in the FIFA World Rankings, the Oceania Football Confederations Cup champions have struggled since capturing the title in June 2012. New Caledonia have beaten the side twice since losing in the final, as have New Zealand. The Solomon Islands also produced a 1-0 win after the tournament, while Sydney FC's reserve team thrashed the outsiders 4-0 back in February.
In fact, Tahiti's only victory since winning the OFC championship came in the 2-0 home defeat of the Solomon Islands. While coach Eddy Etaeta has already achieved far more than expected, his side will be ecstatic to share the field with Nigeria, Spain and Uruguay.
Tahiti's only professional player is the former France U21 international Marama Vahirua. The 33-year-old is best known for spells in Ligue 1, including stints at Nantes, Nice, Lorient and Nancy. He is currently uncapped for the national side but has been called into the squad after expressing his desire to play at the Confederations Cup.
Betting Odds: 5000/1 to win the tournament, 750/1 to reach the final, 300/1 to win Group B
Handicap: Must wear shirts on head in order to intimidate opponents.
Always organised and efficient, Japan will be equipped for a strong showing at the Confederations Cup.
Alberto Zaccheroni's team is currently ranked 32nd in the FIFA World Rankings and is used to dominating the Asian continent with exciting play. Recent victories against Oman, Iraq, Latvia, Canada and France has proven the Japanese can overcome a variety of different styles.
Unfortunately, recent losses to Brazil, Jordan and Bulgaria suggest they also have the ability to capitulate. Zaccheroni's 23-man squad possesses plenty of talent, including Inter Milan's Yuto Nagatomo, CSKA Moscow's Keisuke Honda, Schalke's Atsuo Uchida and Manchester United's Shinji Kagawa.
Betting Odds: 40/1 to win the tournament, 14/1 to reach the final, 16/1 to win Group A
Handicap: Shinji Kagawa is only allowed to play on the left wing.
Interestingly, Nigeria is currently ranked one place above Japan in the FIFA World Rankings. Coming in at 31st, it's clear the bookmakers are expecting the African team to compete throughout the tournament.
The 2013 African Cup of Nations winners have suffered inconsistent form since capturing the continental trophy. A draw and win against Kenya, plus draws versus Mexico and Namibia hasn't produced the perfect buildup to the Confederations Cup, but at least the Nigerian's have remained unbeaten in the last 17 matches.
Stephen Keshi has an exciting and well-balanced squad to choose from. Vincent Enyeama will retain his position between the sticks, while Elderson Echiejile, Kenneth Omeruo, Godfrey Oboabona and Efe Ambrose will aim for another strong defensive showing. Chelsea's John Obi Mikel will lead the side's midfield, although the loss of forwards Victor Moses, Kalu Uche and Emmanuel Emenike is a real disappointment.
Betting Odds: 25/1 to win the tournament, 9/1 to reach the final, 15/2 to win Group B
Handicap: Key injuries already in effect.
Which Mexico will show up at the Confederations Cup? Although currently seeded 17th in the FIFA World Rankings, this talented side has forgotten how to win recently.
Perhaps Jose Manuel de la Torre's experienced players will overcome a recent run of patchy form on the big stage. Mexico have become draw specialists since beating El Salvador 2-0 in October 2012, matching their opponents' score eight times in nine matches since this victory.
Aside from the important 1-0 win over Jamaica on June 4, El Tri have racked up draws against Denmark, Jamaica, Honduras, USA, Peru, Nigeria, Panama and Costa Rica.
With games against Italy, Brazil and Japan in Group A, Mexico's star names will need to be in top form. Important individuals include Ajaccio's Guillermo Ochoa, Real Mallorca's Giovani Dos Santos, Valencia's Andres Guardado and Manchester United's Javier Hernandez. Can Chicharito fire his team to victory?
Betting Odds: 12/1 to win the tournament, 9/2 to reach the final, 11/2 to win Group A
Handicap: Mexico must literally play with a Little Pea up front.
Similar to Italy, Uruguay enters this tournament under very little pressure to win.
Although being ranked 19th in the FIFA World Rankings is arguably rather harsh, this will suit Oscar Tabarez's men just fine. A run of poor form saw Uruguay lose to Colombia, Argentina and Bolivia at the end of 2012, but the Sky Blues have regained confidence in recent weeks.
The 1-0 win over France on June 5 was followed by a 1-0 victory of Venezuela on June 11; two results that suggest the Copa America champions are finding their feet once more. With players such as Luis Suarez, Edinson Cavani and Diego Godin in productive form, the South American outfit should be considered dark horses for the prize.
Betting Odds: 10/1 to win the competition, 9/4 to reach the final, 11/4 to win Group B
Handicap: Luis Suarez must answer questions from the English press whilst playing.
With much of the attention on Brazil and Spain, Italy may feel they have an excellent chance of emerging as Confederations Cup winners.
Cesare Prandelli's men currently occupy eighth in the FIFA World Rankings, and they have been in topsy-turvy form against a range of opposition since losing the Euro 2012 final to Spain. Although an alternative squad lost 2-1 to England, the 2-1 loss to France in November suggests the current side is struggling against tougher teams.
Other results have seen the Azzurri draw with Bulgaria, Netherlands, Brazil, Czech Republic and Haiti, as well as record victories against Malta, Armenia, Denmark and San Marino. Having come up short at Euro 2012, Prandelli will hope to surprise everyone once more with a run of positive results in Brazil.
Italy's array of superstars will be available to play. The likes of Gianluigi Buffon, Mario Balotelli, Andrea Pirlo and Stephan El Shaarawy could dictate how far the Europeans progress.
Betting Odds: 7/1 to win the tournament, 9/4 to reach the final, 11/4 to win Group A
Handicap: Italy must play Mario "Red Card" Balotelli at all times. Even when he has been sent off.
The current World and European Champions are obviously ranked No.1 on FIFA's rankings, but the bookies believe they are second favourites to win the Confederations Cup.
Spain's last defeat came in the November 2011 loss to England. When the team kicks off its opening game against Uruguay on June 16, it will be exactly three years since they lost a competitive match, the last of which was a 1-0 defeat to Switzerland at the 2010 World Cup.
All the usual superstars are here, with Andres Iniesta, Xavi, Juan Mata, Sergio Busquets and friends reporting for duty. Personally, with the pressure on Brazil to win, I'd find it extremely hard to bet against the Spanish, especially when the hosts have been inconsistent of late.
Betting Odds: 7/4 to win the tournament, 8/15 to reach the final, 2/5 to win Group B
Handicap: Barcelona players can only pass sideways.
The Confederations Cup marks the beginning of a competitive journey that could go down in Brazilian history.
This country is rarely expected to lose, but currently toils in 22nd place on the FIFA World Rankings. Although next summer's World Cup is of the utmost importance, many locals expect Luiz Felipe Scolari's men to overcome Spain and triumph at the Confederations Cup. Recent results suggest the expectation is rather naive.
Brazil's recent 3-0 thrashing of France may impress, but the country has stuttered through matches across the last year. They have drawn with England, Colombia, Italy and Russia, plus lost to England at Wembley. Heavy wins over Japan and Bolivia have interspersed these results.
With the likes of Neymar, Oscar, Thiago Silva and Lucas Moura ready to go, this young generation has a significant weight on its shoulders. Experienced internationals such as Dani Alves and Julio Cesar will need to play a huge part. The loss of Leandro Damiao through injury may prove to be a significant exclusion.
Can Brazil triumph? Is the country destined to fail? It will be fascinating to watch.
Betting Odds: 7/5 to win the tournament, 1/2 to reach the final, 8/13 to win Group A
Handicap: The weight of expectation.
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