FIFA Confederations Cup 2013: Predicting Outcome of Tournament's Biggest Matches

Steven Cook@@stevencookinFeatured Columnist IVJune 18, 2013

FORTALEZA, BRAZIL - JUNE 18:  A general view of the Castelao stadium on June 18, 2013 in Fortaleza, Brazil on June 18, 2013 in Fortaleza, Brazil.  (Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images)
Clive Rose/Getty Images

Some of the world's best international footballers square off in the 2013 Confederations Cup, and they'll make for some exciting storylines heading into the biggest matches.

While the biggest action won't take place until next summer in Brazil during the 2014 World Cup, this year's tournament offers a prelude, as many of the elite squads who will be in contention next summer will be showcasing their talents.

Let's jump right in and break down the biggest matches of the group stage in the 2013 Confederations Cup and predict who wins.


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

Two nations that got off to strong starts in the Confederations Cup will take center stage Saturday when hosts Brazil take on Italy.

Both sides are set to play in separate matches on Wednesday before the Saturday tilt, with Brazil facing Mexico and Italy playing Japan. 

The Italians look poised to continue their offensive surge after a well-earned 2-1 win over Mexico in their opening match. Once again, it was embattled striker Mario Balotelli who came up big as Italy's hero, and his surge is reminiscent of his performance in the 2012 Euro. 

Meanwhile, Neymar is leading Brazil to heights I never thought a 21-year-old could reach. He's taken his place as Brazil's new savior, and a strong supporting cast has the Selecao knocking on the door of another World Cup title next year.

Both of these teams are playing well and should go deep into the tournament, but nobody can stop Brazil right now. Not even the stingy Italian defense. 

Prediction: Brazil 3, Italy 1


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

Unlike Brazil and Italy, these two sides got off to very disappointing starts as both teams started things off with a loss.

Either of them could be out of contention by Saturday's match, but that won't keep this group-stage affair from having plenty of fireworks. 

Javier "Chicharito" Hernandez's Mexican side has been starved for goals as of late, but the young star will be looking to turn all of that around against Japan. Alongside Giovani dos Santos, who always plays better in the green Mexico shirt, they always boast a formidable matchup to anyone.

Meanwhile, Japan is led by Shinji Kagawa and Keisuke Honda, two playmaking stars who love to get up on the attack and put pressure on the defense.

They may not be the most notable teams in the group, but this evenly matched affair should be exciting to say the least. Japan will be poised for a World Cup run next summer, but the Mexicans are simply playing with too much of a chip on their shoulder.

Prediction: Mexico 2, Japan 0


Nigeria vs. Uruguay: Thursday, June 20 at 6 p.m. ET

Nigeria got off to a strong start in the Confederations Cup with a 6-1 throbbing over Tahiti, but don't expect them to have such an easy time against Uruguay.

Led by the elusive Luis Suarez and Edinson Cavani, the Uruguayans always boast a formidable presence. Goals were hard to come by in their opening-round match against Spain when they lost 2-1, and they should use that to light a fire.

Nigeria are no slouches, though. John Obi Mikel of Chelsea leads their midfield and is a great two-way player who makes his teammates better. He's surrounded by a great cast of playmakers who often get overlooked.

Don't expect Nigeria to play as the underdogs that they will be, but Uruguay still won't have too much trouble putting them away.

Prediction: Uruguay 4, Nigeria 2