The marquee match in Group B of the 2013 Confederations Cup kicks off Sunday afternoon.
Spain and Uruguay are the class of the group, and it's a bit of a shame they have to play each other this early. Ideally, they'd be going at each other in the last match, with a lot more on the line.
This is still an important match, as both teams will be looking to start the tournament well and set themselves up well toward advancing to the knockout stage.
Here's a preview for this massive Confederations Cup fixture.
When: Sunday, June 16, at 6 p.m. ET
Where: Arena Pernambuco, Sao Lourenco da Mata, Brazil
Live Stream: ESPN3
What's at Stake
This match could very well determine who will finish at the top of Group A. Spain and Uruguay are the class of this group—no offense to Nigeria and Tahiti—so the winner of this match should be able to reel off three straight wins, with the loser picking up two.
With only three matches in the group stage, it's important to get off on the right foot. If you can get three points, you almost assure yourself of finishing in the top two and advancing.
For Spain, this is an opportunity to win yet another trophy. Why stop with titles at Euro 2008, 2010 World Cup and Euro 2012? Plus, they'll be looking to atone for the disappointment in the last Confederations Cup, when they lost, 2-0, to the United States.
It's been a bit of a different story for Uruguay. When they won the 2011 Copa America, Uruguay were among the best countries in the world. Two years later, they're struggling to qualify for the World Cup in CONMEBOL. This tournament is a great chance for Oscar Tabarez to get things on track and strengthen Uruguay's World Cup qualification campaign.
Spain Player to Watch: Cesc Fabregas
It's going to be interesting to see how Vicente del Bosque sends out his squad against Uruguay. He could opt for a more natural striker like David Villa or Fernando Torres, or choose a false nine in Cesc Fabregas.
More than likely, it'll be Fabregas.
Quite a few football fans and pundits complained about Fabregas playing striker at Euro 2012, but you can't argue with the results. Del Bosque is very good at making the necessary tweaks to his squad in order to stay ahead of the competition and avoid too much predictability.
While Fabregas is a more natural attacking midfielder, he's done very well playing in a more advanced role for the national team.
At Barcelona, Fabregas has struggled a bit. He hasn't been poor, but he is not having the same kind of impact he did at Arsenal. Sooner or later, Xavi is going to have to take a step back. When he does, Fabregas should be there to take his place. At least, that was the plan. You can't be so sure after this season.
With a strong performance at the Confederations Cup, Fabregas can instill the confidence in Tito Vilanova and the Barca higher-ups that he is in fact the heir to the throne.
Uruguay Player to Watch: Luis Suarez
No matter what he's doing during a match, Luis Suarez is the kind of player you can't turn away from. Whether he's scoring incredible goals, diving in the area to earn himself a penalty, swatting a sure goal out of the air with his hands or biting an opposing player, Suarez is guaranteed drama any time he steps onto a football pitch.
There's no doubting he's one of the best strikers in the world. Suarez scored 23 goals and assisted on 11 more in 33 Premier League appearances for Liverpool. He's been just as good for Uruguay, finding the net eight times in 10 CONMEBOL qualifiers.
Suarez isn't the only skilled attacker for Uruguay, as Tabarez can call upon Edinson Cavani and Diego Forlan as well. It's Suarez, though, who deserves the plaudits.
When he's at his best, the 26-year-old is unstoppable. Once he receives the ball, Suarez puts his head down and it's full steam ahead. His darting runs through the defense can be a joy to watch, if he hits the ball uselessly over the bar.
Despite the amount of talent on the squad, Uruguay are going to be overmatched in this one. They simply won't be able to handle the controlled Spanish attack.
It's easy to forget just how much Uruguay have struggled in World Cup qualifying—not to mention they were a massive disappointment at the 2012 Olympics despite taking a pretty strong squad. Tabarez has yet to figure out a way to replace the talismanic Forlan in the lineup.
Del Bosque is much more assured in his position. He's had no such problems with his lineup.
The Spanish midfield is going to kill this game off, whether it's Xabi Alonso, Sergio Busquets or Javi Martinez sitting in front of the back four. Expect Spain to score an early goal and from there slowly suffocate Uruguay.
Prediction: Spain 2, Uruguay 1