Confederations Cup 2013 Bracket: Breaking Down Best Group Stage Clashes

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Confederations Cup 2013 Bracket: Breaking Down Best Group Stage Clashes
Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images

The FIFA Confederations Cup is the youngest of all the major international soccer competitions—the Olympics and World Cup being the others—but it has wasted no time becoming one of the world's preeminent events.

Founded in 1992 as the King Fahd Cup, the Confederations Cup has seen many iterations and variations.

However, since FIFA's decision to have it wake place every four years—a year prior to the World Cup in the hosting country for soccer's biggest event—the intrigue has taken off. South Africa's hosting duties in 2009 went off brilliantly, with the United States' run all the way to the championship game adding an unforeseen level excitement stateside.

The USMNT won't be in attendance this time around, but their counterpart in the 2009 championship game, Brazil, will be as the host country. The Brazilians have been a dominant force in the Confederations Cup since FIFA's rebranding, winning the event three times, including each of the past two.

The 2013 Confederations Cup will take place throughout Brazil, which is preparing as the host for the 2014 World Cup in Rio De Janeiro. With slow construction and other problems leaving some to wonder about Brazil's viability handling such a large-scale event, the Confederations Cup should be a nice initial test—albeit one that pales in comparison to the scope of the World Cup.

Outside of the host country, Spain, Italy and Mexico look to be the strongest competitors in this year's field. The Italians and Spaniards (and Uruguayans) all have a chance to finally finish their triad of international competition victories, so this tournament certainly isn't short on motivation or intrigue.

With the event getting underway later on Saturday, let's take a quick look at some of the event's most intriguing group-play matches.

 

2013 Confederations Cup Groups

Group A (Record) Group B (Record)
Brazil (0-0) Nigeria (0-0)
Italy (0-0) Spain (0-0)
Japan (0-0) Tahiti (0-0)
Mexico (0-0) Uruguay (0-0)

 

Most Anticipated Group Matchups

Spain vs. Uruguay

Robert Mayer-USA TODAY Sports

When: Sunday, June 16 at 5 p.m. ET

Watch: ESPN

Stream: WatchESPN

On the surface, Group B looks like a pretty easy skate through to the knockout stage for Spain. The world's top-ranked team got the luck of the draw with Nigeria and Tahiti, two nice sides that will probably struggle against the ball-dominating Spaniards. 

In Spain's way stands only Uruguay as Spain's major test during the group action. The Uruguayans have long been underrated as an international soccer power, and they should present an interesting threat to the more conservative Spanish side. Boasting two of the most tantalizing in-their-prime forwards in the world in Luis Suarez and Edinson Cavani, Uruguay is a threat to start scoring goals in droves at any minute.

That could present a problem for Spain, a side that likes keeping control of the ball and picking their spots. The key to how both sides react—and probably the match—will be at the midfield.

Spain's excellent group midfielders is among the greatest collection of talent in world history at the position. Xavi, Iniesta and Cesc Fabregas are all battle-tested and work the ball around the pitch with a San Antonio Spursian precision.

What's more, it doesn't hurt that the Spaniards are teeming with international experience. Coach Vicente del Bosque brought back 19 of his players from the European championship team last year, 18 of whom already tasted World Cup glory in 2010. 

Spain is the favorite in this tournament and will be in this match, as should be the case. But the potential for an Uruguay run is very real, so don't completely count them out just yet. 

 

Italy vs. Mexico

Claudio Villa/Getty Images

When: Sunday, June 16 at 3 p.m. ET

Watch: ESPN

Stream: WatchESPN

If you haven't caught on quite yet, Sunday will be an excellent day for sports fans. Not only will the U.S. Open be concluding and the NBA Finals be having Game 5, but two of the most intriguing early matchups at the Confederations Cup will be getting kicked off.

ESPN's coverage carries both of these games, with Italy and Mexico providing an excellent capper to the afternoon of soccer.

Despite the presence of host country Brazil in Group A, Italy has to feel strong in their chances of making the knockout round.

The Italians are ranked seventh overall in the FIFA standings, one of only two top-10 countries in this field. Well-tested in international competition and boasting arguably the most fiery roster in the world, Italy's chances in this match will come down to the performances of their two biggest names.

Bob Levey/Getty Images

Led by goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon and forward Mario Balotelli, this is a team that has both promise for the future and in the present. Buffon is one of the most decorated goaltenders in world history regardless of nationality, Balotelli a 22-year-old spitfire whose unrelenting talent makes him one of the world's most captivating talents. Andrea Pirlo will also bring a ton of help in the midfield, something that Mexico might struggle to match.

El Tri comes into this event struggling. They have exactly one win during this calendar year, a World Cup qualifying triumph over Jamaica. Other than that, it's been a whole heaping of draws and one shocking friendly loss to the United States in Estadio Azteca

There are some who have seen those struggles and pegged Mexico as the most likely to get bounced from Group A, but this squad is nothing if not resilient. We'll get a good idea of which Mexican side showed up in their opening tilt against Italy.

 

Italy vs. Brazil

Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

When: Saturday, June 22 at 3 p.m. ET

Watch: ESPNNews

Stream: WatchESPN

While we just spent a little bit of time extolling the values of Italy as this group's best team in terms of the FIFA standings, don't get it twisted—this is still Brazil's group to lose. The Brazilians have fallen off in the FIFA rankings, where they are currently 22nd, for the simple reason they've eschewed most international competition.

They're the slumbering mama grizzly bear that's been rudely awoken by some pesky visitors. It's almost certain that Brazil will look to protect their cubs (country, whatever) by pulverizing their way through their third straight Confederations Cup.

On sheer talent alone, Brazil looks like they're already in the driver's seat of Group A action. 

Luiz Felipe Scolari's band of one-named brothers heads back home with a roster names like Hulk, Neymar, Paulinho, Dani Alves and countless other well-known names for the club spectre. Putting Brazil and Spain's roster up against one another looks like the All-Star game of any American professional sports league. These teams are that good.

That being said, we've already mentioned the prodigious talents working on the Italian side as well. After a terrible showing in 2009, getting knocked out in the group stage, Italy will undoubtedly be pushing for a more representative showing of their prowess. Defeating the host country and sending a message could do just that.

It will be particularly interesting, though, to see just how much this match matters. Should Italy and Brazil both win their first two matches comfortably, then it's possible this goes quickly downhill as both sides merely look to protect and advance. Neither side has that personality overall—no, really, they don't have that personality at all—but this match will certainly carry a bit of intrigue.

And, more interestingly, should Brazil and Italy come in with 1-1 records? Look out. You'll be seeing a World Cup-level game as the Brazilian crowd will hit a frenzied state.

 

Complete 2013 Confederations Cup Group Schedule

*Courtesy of FIFA.com

Group A

Match No.

When

Where

Watch

Country  

Country 

1

June 15 at 3 p.m. ET

Brasilia

ESPN

Brazil

Japan

2

June 16 at 3 p.m. ET

Rio De Janeiro

ESPN

Mexico

Italy

5

June 19 at 3 p.m. ET

Fortaleza

ESPN

Brazil

Mexico

6

June 19 at 5 p.m. ET

Recife

ESPN

Italy

Japan

9

June 22 at 3 p.m. ET

Salvador

ESPNNews

Italy

Brazil

10

June 22 at 3 p.m. ET

Belo Horizonte

ESPN

Japan

Mexico

Group B

Match No. 

When

Where

 Watch

 Country

Country 

3

June 16 at 5 p.m. ET

Recife

ESPN

Spain

Uruguay

4

June 17 at 3 p.m. ET

Belo Horizonte

ESPN

Tahiti

Nigeria

7

June 20 at 3 p.m. ET

Rio De Janeiro

ESPN

Spain

Tahiti

8

June 20 at 5 p.m. ET

Salvador

ESPN

Nigeria

Uruguay

11

June 23 at 3 p.m. ET

Fortaleza

ESPN

Nigeria

Spain

12

June 23 at 3 p.m. ET 

Recife

ESPN2

Uruguay

Tahiti

 

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