FIFA Confederations Cup 2013: Teams That Are Bound to Disappoint in Group Play
Brazil is the site for the 2013 FIFA Confederations Cup, which opened group play on Saturday and will give the country a taste of international football ahead of hosting next year's World Cup.
Like the latter global phenomenon, this tournament is held once every four years. The hosting Brazil national football team will participate, along with reigning World Cup champion Spain, Mexico, Japan, Uruguay, Italy, Nigeria and Tahiti.
Unfortunately for some of these clubs, they are inevitably destined to have letdowns and not fulfill expectations in the tournament of champions.
Let's take a look at the national squads who are likeliest to have disappointing efforts in this tantalizing precursor to the grandest spectacle in football.
The past two matches have resulted in draws for the Azzurri, but that's not the only red flag entering their opening fixture against Mexico.
Which team will disappoint most in the Confederations Cup?
Making matters more difficult is that striker Mario Balotelli was announced by the Italian Football Federation as doubtful for Sunday's match, according to the Hindustan Times. Balotelli suffered a thigh injury, and that cut his training short.
As ESPN's John Brewin highlights, Italy head coach Cesare Prandelli has incredible versatility in terms of the tactics he deploys on the pitch. Prandelli has the capability to throw four different formations at opponents based on how personnel match up.
What's also working in Italy's favor is that its defense is characteristically stout, keyed by team captain goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon and defender Giorgio Chiellini.
However, it's difficult to tell which team will show up. The one that tied Haiti in a recent friendly fixture certainly won't get it done. Should Balotelli indeed miss significant time, it will be up to veteran Juventus midfielder and Euro 2012 stud Andrea Pirlo to again drive Italy's bid for this trophy.
The Africa Cup of Nations champions finally put everything together in their impressive run to the title, but concerns should linger with the Super Eagles' tendency to play down to their competition.
That's not the most concerning development. Rather, it's the fact that the club won't arrive in Brazil until Sunday, thus making it extremely difficult to prepare properly for its Group B clash with Tahiti.
The reason Nigeria is arriving late is due to a dispute over bonuses that caused the players to strike. BBC Sports' Oluwashina Okeleji highlighted what the Nigerian Football Federation's general secretary Musa Amadu said of the matter:
We are shocked, like every Nigerian, at the attitude of the players...It is incomprehensible because the NFF president Aminu Maigari and myself sat down with the management of the Super Eagles, including coach Stephen Keshi, to explain why we had to slash the bonus and other measures taken as a result of our financial constraints.
Nigerian players refused to take their flights to Brazil on Thursday because they did not receive bonus money apparently promised to them after beating Kenya 1-0 in a World Cup qualifier. The NFF refused to pay because of lack of sufficient funds.
Eventually, the dispute was solved by Nigeria's sports minister Bolaji Abdullahi.
For a team that has trouble putting it all together for 90 minutes, a distraction of this magnitude may affect their performance on the pitch.
There is a lot of pressure on head coach Jose Manuel de la Torre to succeed because his job status may be in jeopardy if Mexico doesn't turn in a stellar performance.
The coach nicknamed "Chepo," though, is keeping his cool—at least in the public eye—as documented by Goal.com's Tom Marshall:
Chepo on leaving poor form behind: "Qualifiers are different than the Confederations Cup. The team is relaxed and motivated."— Tom Marshall (@mexicoworldcup) June 15, 2013
Unfortunately, if the team's recent form is any indication, a solid effort may not be in the cards. Players are having a difficult time getting up for matches lately.
Though they tore through the CONCACAF region in undefeated fashion (per Brewin), the fourth round of World Cup qualifying has been a different story. Mexico has won just one match while tying five others, perpetually struggling to close the deal.
Sunday's opener against Italy will truly be a measuring stick fixture for both clubs. Berwin predicts a tie, and it would not be a surprise considering the lack of consistency Mexico has shown.
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