Confederations Cup 2013 Schedule: Biggest Matches to Watch For in Group Play

Steven CookFeatured Columnist IVJune 18, 2013

May 31, 2013; Houston, TX, USA; Nigeria defender Kenneth Omeruo (22) dribbles against Mexico midfielder Javier Aquino (11) during the second half at Reliant Stadium. Nigeria and Mexico played to a 2-2 draw. Mandatory Credit: Thomas Campbell-USA TODAY Sports
Thomas Campbell-USA TODAY Sports

The 2013 Confederations Cup is underway in Brazil, but some of the best group-stage matches are yet to unfold.

With some of the world's best teams in the field, we're sure to have a number of epic affairs in the prelude to next year's World Cup.

Without further ado, let's check out the most enticing upcoming matches in group play at the Confederations Cup.


Japan vs. Mexico: Saturday, June 22, 3 p.m. ET

Two of the most underrated teams in the world are set to show down in group play on Saturday, and it's sure to bring fireworks from both squads.

Japan comes in as the 32nd-ranked team in international football (per FIFA), but behind the stellar play of duo Shinji Kagawa and Keisuke Honda, they could make some real noise this summer (and possibly next summer) in Brazil.

However, they'll have their hands full in getting past a pesky Mexico squad that brings it on every occasion. Led by Javier "Chicharito" Hernandez and a young squad of able playmakers, the 16th-ranked Mexicans are putting together some scintillating football.

Despite going down to Italy by a 2-1 score in their opening match, Mexico looks poised to play start-to-finish with every opponent and Japan tends to do the same after a 3-0 loss to Brazil. 

Both of these teams were dealt a tough hand to start out the Confederations Cup and are looking to rebound in a big way with a quality win.


Italy vs. Brazil: Saturday, June 22, 3 p.m. ET

The Italians seem to have shown up thus far after their 2-1 win over Mexico, where embattled striker Mario Balotelli proved valuable once again.

But there's a major foe standing in front of them in a stacked Group A, as host country Brazil is set to continue their roll with a Saturday match.

Each team has come into the Confederations Cup garnering a ton of hype, and for their own respective reasons.

The experienced Italy squad always shows up on the international stage, and this summer should be no exception. With battle-tested veterans and a sure-to-be-entertaining striker in Balotelli, the Italians always put together an exciting display of football.

The team standing across the pitch will be no slouch, as the Neymar-led Brazilians look to build off a strong start and reward their home fans with more victories.

Both squads are worth watching as the tournament goes on, and this might not even be the last time they play. Whoever wins, though, will have a big leg up in Group A.


Nigeria vs. Spain: Sunday, June 23, 3 p.m. ET

Spain began their Confederations Cup with a 2-1 victory over Uruguay that was incredibly more lopsided than the scoreline suggests.

The Spanish side, as usual, controlled possession and kept the dangerous Uruguay attack from gaining practically any steam throughout the entire contest. It took a late Luis Suarez beauty of a free-kick to keep from giving Spain a clean sheet.

The defending World Cup champions will have their hands full with a confident Nigeria squad that boasts its fair share of playmakers.

Chelsea's John Obi Mikel headlines the Super Eagles' scoring attack, and their back line is protected by defender Efe Ambrose. The 24-year-old Ambrose plays for Celtic and participated in their victory over Barcelona in the Champions League, so perhaps he has the blueprint on how to defeat a possession-crazy Spanish team.

It would be a surprise to see anything other than a dominating possession performance from Spain, but if Nigeria can keep their defense intact and generate chances when they get them, they could flirt with a draw.