FIFA Confederations Cup 2013: Teams That Must Improve Entering Game 2
One full round of games will be completed in the 2013 FIFA Confederations Cup by the time the sun sets in Brazil on Monday evening and, with those four matches in the books, the next round of games will begin.
Brazil and Spain started their tournaments off with a bang, winning games against Japan and Uruguay, respectively, while Italy survived against Mexico and Tahiti and Nigeria were scheduled to square off on Monday afternoon.
There have been four winners, four losers and no draws so far, and that trend will likely change with the high-caliber football we've seen over the first few days of the group stage at this epic tournament.
With a mind toward the second group of games, here's a look at the teams that need to improve the most before dispatching their full squads to the pitch for Game 2.
Upcoming 2013 Confederations Cup Schedule (via FIFA.com)
Wednesday, June 19: Brazil vs. Mexico (Group A)
Wednesday, June 19: Italy vs. Japan (Group A)
Thursday, June 20: Spain vs. Tahiti (Group B)
Thursday, June 20: Nigeria vs. Uruguay (Group B)
2013 Confederations Cup Group Standings (via FIFA.com, as of 6/17/13)
|GROUP A||GROUP B|
Teams That Must Improve Before Game 2
Sure, the Super Eagles pummeled the Tahiti Minnows on Monday, but Nigeria really lost touch at the start of the second half and missed out on several other opportunities to score.
With arguably the worst chance of any team atop the standings to make it to the semifinal stage, Nigeria will have to find a way to earn points somewhere between both Uruguay and Spain to find a way into the bracket round.
Nnamdi Oduamadi had a hat-trick for the Super Eagles on Monday, but there's little doubt that the rest of his No. 31-ranked side (via FIFA.com) will have their work cut out for them just to get out of Group B alive in the next two matches.
Don't let Luis Suarez's late free-kick goal fool you—Spain was as dominant as a side could be in taking down the Uruguayan squad in their opening match of Group B play.
Two early goals from Pedro and Roberto Soldado gave Spain an early lead against Uruguay, and the underdogs didn't make things close until the 88th minute, when the Liverpool striker gave his side one last gasp toward a draw and a point in the table.
It was not to be though, as Spain otherwise cruised to the 2-1 victory and a huge stepping stone off their check list at the Cup this year.
If Uruguay wants to turn things around and finish in second place in the table to reach the semifinal round, they're going to have to turn things up a notch in the basic aspects of the match.
Uruguay was totally outmatched, and otherwise outclassed, by one of the favorites for the 2014 World Cup. This tweet from OptaJose helps confirm that idea:
75,1% - Spain achieved against Uruguay the highest possession of the history in a Confederation Cup´s game. Roller.— OptaJose (@OptaJose) June 17, 2013
This one from ESPN's Paul Carr, does, too:
Tahiti has already completed more passes (70) than Uruguay did in the first half yesterday (68).— Paul Carr (@PCarrESPN) June 17, 2013
Uruguay managed just four shots to Spain's 17, had possession for just a quarter of the match and couldn't get anything going on the attack against one of the best defensive sides you'll see in this tournament.
Nigeria and Tahiti are now must-win matches for Suarez, Edinson Cavani and the rest of the upstart Uruguay side, and hopefully they can use it as a chance to polish some of the passing and possession problems that were quite evident against Spain.
Japan was listed as a darkhorse to upset Brazil and take hold of the Group A table in the opening match of the tournament, but being unable to finish despite finding 11 shots at the net eventually led to a 3-0 Brazilian blowout.
Keisuke Honda and Ryoichi Maeda combined for seven of those shots, but Manchester United midfielder Shinji Kagawa and forward Shinji Okazaki weren't able to create enough chances to find the back of the net and cut the deficit down.
It won't get any easier during the rest of Group A.
Despite Brazil and Italy taking an early stance atop the table, this is still anyone's group. All four teams are relatively evenly matched, and we're still waiting on Mexico to wake up from their recent struggles (more on that below).
The match with Italy presents a chance for the Azzurri to take a commanding presence toward the semifinal and the Blue Samurai to rebound from the early loss and make things really interesting with half of group play complete.
It's gut-check time for El Tri.
Mexico has just one win in their last 10 matches, and that lone win came against Jamaica in the CONCACAF hexagonal for 2014 World Cup qualifying.
Is it time for a change in the lineup? Does Mexico even have anything left to lose with the recent string of disappointing losses and draws against teams much lower down the FIFA world rankings? Tom Marshall discussed a shake-up of that nature on Goal.com:
As mentioned with Japan, things won't get any easier for El Tri. Matches against Brazil and Japan now loom after getting no points against Italy, and the problem of a poor attack continues to persist amongst the current lineup.
Which side has the most pressure to win after their loss?
Italy pounded 16 shots (six on target) to Mexico's 10 (three on target), and found the net late after Mario Balotelli joined fellow Azzurri star Andrea Pirlo in the scoring category.
If Mexico can't use the next two matches to rebound from their current dry spell, we could be talking about a shake-up in the manager department before the World Cup, or even on the roster itself. El Tri are too talented to keep disappointing like this, so more than any other side, look for the urgency level to be high the next time Mexico hits the pitch.
Follow Bleacher Report FC Ethan Grant (@DowntownEG) on Twitter.
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