Confederations Cup 2013: Ranking Contenders Entering Final Days of Group Play

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Confederations Cup 2013: Ranking Contenders Entering Final Days of Group Play
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Three unbeaten international powerhouses, including host nation Brazil have emerged as the favorites at the 2013 Confederations Cup this summer.

Technically, six of the eight teams that qualified are still alive, but Tahiti is on the ropes, and only four can advance. Saturday and Sunday mark the final days of group play, as the knockout stage draws closer and teams look to position themselves for the semifinals.

With plenty at stake, below we'll power rank the top contenders left standing, heading into the final weekend of group play in Brazil.

 

No. 1. Spain (2-0-0, 6 points)

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Two-time reigning European champion and current World Cup champion Spain has been awfully impressive through two matches at the 2013 Confederations Cup in Brazil.

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La Roja has scored 12 goals and conceded just one, thus far, the lone goal allowed coming off a free kick late in garbage time against Uruguay in the opener. 

Spain's ability to possess the ball for long stretches and take the opponent's attack out of the game is what makes it such a deadly squad. Vicente del Bosque's side always seems to execute its short-passing style flawlessly, picking apart defenses and creating a plethora of scoring opportunities. 

No, Fernando Torres won't score four goals in a match again this summer, but he and his fellow Spanish attackers have to be feeling good about themselves, heading into the second week of the tournament after earning convincing wins over Uruguay and Tahiti.

 

No. 2. Brazil (2-0-0, 6 points)

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The hosts have looked strong through the first week of the Confederations Cup, but Spain's dominance and recent success on the international stage gives it the slight edge, heading into the knockout round.

Neymar will be the difference for Brazil moving forward, though. He's an undeniable talent at forward, and if he can continue to get Brazil off to fast starts, the hosts could be set to win back-to-back-to-back Confederations Cup titles.

Remember, Spain was upset by the United States in the semifinals of the Confederations Cup four years ago in South Africa, allowing Brazil to avoid the European champions.

Brazil's match against Italy on Saturday will be very telling, however, as Luiz Felipe Scolari's squad has yet to concede, trail or face any adversity thus far.

 

No. 3. Italy (2-0-0, 6 points)

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Like Brazil, Italy has already booked a trip to the semifinals of this summer's tournament. But unlike Brazil, the Azzurri haven't been quite as disciplined in defense.

Italy has surrendered four goals through its first two group matches and will obviously need to be better in front of its goal against Brazil on Saturday if it hopes to win the group and avoid Spain in the semifinals. 

Mario Balotelli has been in top form through the first two group matches, and he'll need to keep scoring for Italy to have a chance with Brazil and Spain both looking remarkably potent on the attack.

The Azzurri have the gritty players to get it done this summer, but they look to be a few steps behind Spain and Brazil at the moment.

 

No. 4. Uruguay (1-0-1, 3 points)

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La Celeste bounced back beautifully against Nigeria on Thursday, winning arguably its most important Group B match with Spain looking unbeatable and Tahiti looking like a sure-win coming into this event.

Uruguay will round out group play against the Oceanian champions on Sunday and should win easily to secure six points in the group and advance to the knockout stage, considering Nigeria will be up against Spain in the other Group B showdown.

If Diego Lugano and company can pour it on a Tahiti side that has surrendered 16 goals through its first two matches in Brazil, and Spain can pick up a point or three against Nigeria, Uruguay will likely be headed to the semifinals in Belo Horizonte as the Group B runner-up.

 

No. 5. Nigeria (1-0-1, 3 points)

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After losing to Uruguay on Thursday, things are looking bleak for the Super Eagles as they gear up for Spain on Sunday. 

The Spanish have been strong, thus far, and will want to pick up at least a point in order to secure a first-place finish in Group B. Meanwhile, Uruguay will take on Tahiti in what should be a guaranteed victory for the Copa America winners.

Unless Nigeria can defeat Spain by a huge margin or Tahiti can upset Uruguay, it's not looking good for the African champions.

Nigeria is still alive, but not for long, barring some shocking results this weekend.

 

Follow Bleacher Report Featured Columnist Patrick Clarke on Twitter. 

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