The 2013 FIFA Confederations Cup is nearly through with group stage action, and this weekend's matches will mark the end of the round-robin schedule that the eight teams in contention all had on their dockets.
Four matches remain to decide which four teams will officially grace the semifinals of the Confederations Cup, although we already know that both Brazil and Italy will be there from Group A after Japan and Mexico both went 0-2 their first two times out.
Group B is still in flux, with Spain, Uruguay and Nigeria all still alive for the two spots in the next round. Depending on the outcomes on Sunday, any of the three could move on to the next stage while the other will head home.
It's been an exciting few days of action so far, with Italy and Brazil's big wins in group play on collision course with each other for Saturday's match, and the stunning disappointments of Mexico continuing well into the tournament action.
With only four chances to catch all eight of these teams before the stakes are raised, here's a look at what to expect over the final weekend before the semifinal stage begins.
|Remaining Group Schedule|
|Saturday, June 22, at 3 p.m. EDT||Italy vs. Brazil|
|Saturday, June 22, at 3 p.m. EDT||Japan vs. Mexico|
|Sunday, June 23, at 3 p.m. EDT||Nigeria vs. Spain|
|Sunday, June 23, at 3 p.m. EDT||Uruguay vs. Tahiti|
Current Group Standings
|GROUP A||GROUP B|
What to Expect from Weekend Action
Goals Against Tahiti
If there's been one certain so far in the 2013 Confederations Cup, it's been that goals are going to be had against Tahiti when the minnows take the pitch.
It's been tough to watch the first-time qualifiers so far against Nigeria and Spain, as they have allowed 16 goals through two matches and set the record for goal differential in one match by losing to Spain by 10 goals on Thursday.
Uruguay gets the next crack at Tahiti, and there's still something to play for on each side.
For Tahiti, that is pride, something that you can still feel even though the other countries in the tournament have outmatched the Minnows in two straight appearances. Tahiti can take pride in scoring a goal against the Super Eagles and they won't lay over and die just because Uruguay is the more talented team.
But Uruguay will score goals and will likely win this match, and that leads us to the next facet of the tournament that you should pay close attention to on Sunday.
As mentioned above, Group B is up for grabs.
It's highly unlikely that Spain would suffer any kind of loss to knock the impressive plus-10 mark they currently hold at the top of the group, but stranger things have happened. As mentioned above, Uruguay will no doubt find the net several times against Tahiti.
Spain can squash that talk with an outright win over Nigeria, but the Super Eagles have shown resilience so far over the past 19 matches, winning them all before finally falling to Uruguay on Thursday.
Goal differential is going to be more of a factor for Nigeria than any other squad in action over the weekend. While a win is the only way this team can get into the semifinals, it will also have to avoid Uruguay climbing back and having a higher goal differential against Tahiti.
Nigeria clearly has the worst chance of any team to make it to the next stage, but goal differential will play a huge role in determining the other two semifinalists if the Super Eagles pull off the stunning upset against Spain.
Brazil vs. Italy
Both Brazil and Italy are through to the next stage, so it will be interesting to see how both managers attack the decision to play hard and balance that strategy with avoiding injury in a match that doesn't really matter other than seeding for the next stage.
However, since this match is on Saturday, there's no way either would know what the No. 1 and No. 2 seeds would be in the next stage.
There's star power abound on both of these rosters, with Neymar scoring in two straight matches for his home nation and Mario Balotelli putting on two fine performances as both squads have taken down Mexico and Japan to reach this point.
Even if half time is the last time we see the starters in this match—if we see the majority of them at all—this could be a preview of the tournament final and a proving ground for some of the tournament's biggest stars.
Don't shy away from any match this weekend—even Japan versus Mexico has an interesting layer of response and momentum for World Cup qualifying—but this is one you should moderately view while trying to map out what a final between the two would really look like.
Follow Bleacher Report FC Ethan Grant (@DowntownEG) on Twitter.
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