2013 Confederations Cup: Picking the Winner
The 2013 Confederations Cup will begin in just a couple of days. This tournament, often seen as a precursor to the World Cup, will feature some of the best teams in the world, along with some underdogs who will be looking to prove themselves in a big international tournament.
Every team wants to leave the site of next year's World Cup with a major trophy, and spectators will get a sneak peek at what to expect in terms of the hosting site, Brazil. This tournament offers some great promise.
So, without further ado, let's begin.
Group A is, in my opinion, is definitely a step up from Group B in terms of overall quality. The group is comprised of Brazil, Japan, Mexico and Italy.
Expectations are very high for Brazil at the moment. Fans of Brazil, who have won more World Cup titles than any other country, will be placing immense pressure on them to win the competition in next summer's spectacle.
Since a disappointing 2010 World Cup, in which it failed to reach the semifinals, Brazil's current team, while full of great individual talents, has not impressed as a unit and has fallen from No. 1 to No. 22 in the FIFA World Rankings in the past 3 years.
Recent results have not been great for the Brazilians, and while there's no denying the talent of the likes of Neymar and Ganso, people are questioning if this group can get it done when it matters.
Japan defeated newcomers to the AFC, Australia, in the 2011 Asian Cup to reach this tournament. The Japanese usually fare well in tournaments, and star attacking midfielder Keisuke Honda will need to bag a few goals if Japan want to go far in this tournament.
After winning the 2012 Olympics, a "golden generation" of young Mexican talent was being touted. Many thought this could be the next great international side. However, talent hasn't equalled results.
As a North American, I've been able to watch most of Mexico's games qualifying in the Hexagonal phase. They've looked totally out of ideas offensively, and the only bright spot has been the stellar play of goalkeeper Jesus Corona.
Just two years after getting into an altercation in a Dublin nightclub, the keeper has singlehandedly saved Mexico several points so far during qualifying. Things have gotten so bad for the team, that after their 3rd consecutive 0-0 draw at Azteca, the fans were chanting for the head coach to be fired.
This team desperately needs to do well at this tournament.
Italy round out the group, and they're not too shabby in terms of footballing history.
The Italians have a good combination of young players like Mario Balotelli and veterans such as Buffon and Chiellini. They've done very well in World Cup qualifying, easily leading their group, and should be very difficult to break down tactically. Because Spain won both the World Cup and Euro 2012, they were chosen as Europe's representative because they finished runner-up in last year's Euros.
The Verdict: A solid Italian side tops the group while Brazil's skillful players do just enough to get through to the semifinals. The Japanese finish third and Mexican woes continue as they end in the cellar.
Group B consists of Spain, Uruguay, Tahiti and Nigeria.
The Spanish national team has won three straight major international competitions—two Euros with a World Cup sandwiched in between. Now they're just looking to extend their dominance.
I believe their squad, still headlined by the likes of Xavi, Xabi Alonso and Iker Casillas, is the strongest in this competition. Honestly, there's the potential for some very lopsided scoresheets when they face off against the other teams in this group.
Uruguay is another solid team. Players like Diego Forlan and the now-infamous Luis Suarez helped them reach the World Cup semifinals back in 2010.
Their qualifying campaign hasn't been very good so far, but this is a chance for them to kick-start it. The winners of the first-ever World Cup always seem to show up for these tournaments, despite their relatively small population (under 4 million), as evidenced by their impressive 2011 Copa America triumph.
This team is my dark horse to surprise a lot of people.
Oh, Tahiti. The first non-New Zealand or Australia team to win the OFC Nations Cup. While the OFC is basically made up of minnows, it's still going to be huge for a country like Tahiti to participate in this prestigious tournament.
I won't lie, I haven't heard much about this side. One thing's for sure, though: If they don't finish last in their group, it has to be considered a successful tournament and a shock.
A player to look out for is Nicolas Vallar, captain and penalty taker. He'll be the one called on to keep his side playing strongly when adversity strikes.
The African Cup of Nations winners, Nigeria, will need to bring their A-game to advance out of this group. The Super Eagles had a disappointing 2010 World Cup and will be looking to showcase themselves on the world stage again, this time hoping for better results.
The Verdict: The Spanish win every group stage match, easily topping the group. The Uruguayans come in second. The Nigerians follow in third and the Tahitians finish with 0 points at the bottom. No games will be drawn in this group, only won or lost because there is a significant quality gap between each team.
The first semifinal match would pit my projected Group A winners, Italy, against Group B runners-up, Uruguay. This match should be entertaining, but Italy is too organized and eventually will take advantage of a late chance to notch a 1-0 win and progress to the final.
The second match will feature Group A runners up and hosts Brazil against Group B winners Spain. This has the potential to be the match of the tournament if it really does happen: the beautifully passing Spanish against their skilled Brazilian hosts with the crowd on their side.
This will have a fair amount of goals for a semifinal where both teams are usually very cautious, but the FIFA World Rankings leaders are too strong and oust the hosts by a score of 2-1.
It's the mouthwatering matchup we've all been waiting for. The rematch of the Euro 2012 final. Spain vs. Italy.
Italy will surely have revenge in mind when they face off against arguably the best team in the history of association football. They'll come out and try to be very physical, breaking up the Spanish play and staying strong in the back. In the end, while not the 4-0 thrashing of last year, the Spanish will get the 2-0 result and put yet another trophy on the list.
By the way, just wanted to mention, who was the last team to knock Spain out of an international tournament? Yes, that would be the USA.