5 Bold Predictions for the 2013 FIFA Confederations Cup
With the 2014 World Cup less than a year away, this month's Confederations Cup will serve as an appetizer for the world's grandest competition.
The Confederations Cup, which begins Saturday, takes place in Brazil, also the host of next summer's World Cup.
The tournament pits the 2010 World Cup champion (Spain), the host (Brazil) and the six winners of their respective continental cups (Japan, Uruguay, Mexico, Tahiti, Nigeria and Italy, who finished runner-up to Spain) against each other in a star-studded event.
So what should one expect from this competition?
Here are five bold predictions for the 2013 FIFA Confederations Cup.
A year on from their great run to the Euro 2012 final, Italy enter this Confederations Cup third in the odds to win the tournament (via OddsChecker.com).
However, the Italians might just struggle in this competition.
Italy are fresh off two draws, the more recent of which was a worrying collapse against Haiti in a friendly.
It's possible that the Azzurri could be heading for a similar tournament to the one they had in South Africa in 2010.
Tahiti Get a Point
Tahiti's place in this Confederations Cup makes every other usage of the term "Cinderella team" in sports seem silly.
The Tahitians shockingly won their way into this tournament last summer, beating New Caledonia in the OFC Nations Cup after their opponents had defeated perennial juggernauts New Zealand in the semifinal.
This marked the first time that a nation other than Australia or New Zealand had won Oceania's continental tournament.
Now, this team that, except for one player, is filled with amateurs from the local league is up against the likes of Spain, Uruguay and Nigeria in their group.
It would be shocking to see the Tahitians do anything in this tournament, but the thrill of the competition might just inspire them to a draw somewhere along the line.
Even that point would be a monumental upset in the history of football.
Luis Suarez Won't Create a Scandal
From an intentional handball on the goal line to racial insensitivity to biting, Luis Suarez has seen his share of controversies over the past three years.
While the Uruguayan's brilliance on the pitch is unquestioned, these incidents have raised questions over whether he is worth the hassle.
With this hanging over his head, expect Suarez to be on his best behavior in Brazil this month.
Still, three to five matches without scandal seems to be a big ask for the Liverpool man.
Fernando Torres Wins the Golden Boot
If there's one thing that Fernando Torres has proven over the past few years, it's that he can score plenty of goals against lesser opposition and/or when there's little on the line.
Four years ago, Torres netted three in his side's Confederations Cup romp over Oceania champion New Zealand, a feat that propelled him to the Silver Boot.
At Euro 2012, Torres scored a few unimportant goals in matches that had already been decided and ended up with the Golden Boot.
With Tahiti in the group, one would imagine that there are goals to be had for a team like Spain.
Torres might be able to seal the top scorer prize in that match alone.
Spain Beat Brazil in the Final
Four years ago, Spain lost their Confederations Cup semifinal to the USA. That has been about the only thing this Spanish side have lost over the past several years.
One would expect that this proud group will come out firing in pursuit of atoning for that loss. Meanwhile, host nation Brazil have a lot of talent on their squad and could definitely make a run to the final.
Unfortunately, defeating a highly experienced Spain side might be a bridge too far for this group of youngsters.
Hopefully the effects of another loss in a tournament final (after the 2012 Olympics) won't cause too much of a backlash on this improving group of Brazilians as they gear toward the World Cup.