Confederations Cup 2013: Predicting Winners for This Weekend's Games

Use your ← → (arrow) keys to browse more stories
Confederations Cup 2013: Predicting Winners for This Weekend's Games
Claudio Villa/Getty Images

Heading into this weekend's conclusion of group play at the 2013 Confederations Cup, there is real potential for proceedings to go out with a whimper.

Brazil and Italy have already locked themselves into the elimination round with 2-0 starts in group play, while Spain's 12-1 goal differential all but does the same for them. With the Spaniards looking increasingly like the overwhelming favorite for this year's event in Brazil, Nigeria's unlucky draw of the top-ranked team on Sunday casts a relative certainty over this weekend.

Barring something unforeseen, Brazil, Italy, Uruguay and Spain will face off against one another in the elimination round.

The only thing remaining to determine is how the matchups will shake out. Now, for those who watch soccer for the sport rather than the palpable intrigue, this weekend still could bring some excitement onto the pitch.

Brazil and Italy will battle in a match that will determine Group A's champion and decide which squad misses out on Spain until a potential final. That's no small deal. And with the remainder of this weekend's matches carrying similarly underlying consequences, you would be remiss to simply hit the DVR skip button to the elimination round. 

With that in mind, here is a complete breakdown of this weekend's finales to group play at the 2013 Confederations Cup. 

 

2013 FIFA Confederations Cup Standings

Group A

Country (Record) GF GA Points
Brazil (2-0) 5
Italy (2-0) 6
Mexico (0-2)
Japan (0-2)

 

Group B

Country (Record) GF GA Points
Spain (2-0) 12 
Nigeria (1-1)
Uruguay (1-1)
Tahiti (0-2) 16 

 

Matchup Previews

Italy vs. Brazil

Scott Heavey/Getty Images

Say what you will about the Confederations Cup, but their organizers sure didn't bury the lede here. While some tournaments would understandably hold this match off until Sunday—something of a grand finale to the group stage—Italy and Brazil will battle for Group A supremacy bright and early Saturday afternoon.

Who wins?

Submit Vote vote to see results

For some, this match will feel a bit anticlimactic. The stakes are the difference between winning Group A and merely finishing second; both will advance to the elimination round regardless of the outcome. Sometimes in soccer, in a different tournament perhaps, you would see Brazil and Italy hold off their dogs and conserve a bit of energy for the next round.

With the stakes being a (likely) meeting against Spain for the loser, though, don't expect that for a second. The goal should be to avoid the top-ranked Spaniards for as long as possible, because, well, duh.

As for which side will pull that off, it's hard to bet against the hosting Brazilians at this juncture. They have been nothing short of excellent in their pseudo-return to FIFA-sanctioned competition, with Julio Cesar nabbing two clean sheets en route to a five-goal differential. Including a friendly against France earlier this month, Cesar has given three straight opponents the proverbial goose egg.

Clive Mason/Getty Images

The Brazilian attack hasn't been too shabby, either. Neymar, he of the massive new contract with FC Barcelona, has scored a goal within the first nine minutes of each Confederations Cup match for Brazil. He's spearheaded a relentless Brazilian attack, one that's sent a barrage of shots spraying at the Japanese and Mexican nets. 

Meanwhile, things have been a little less smooth for Italy.

They needed a semi-miracle comeback against Japan after going down 2-0 early, getting the help of a critical own goal by Atsuto Uchida. It also took until the 78th minute before Mario Balotelli was able to put Italy ahead for good on Mexico. So while a win is a win and all that good stuff, Brazil has looked like the far advanced team thus far.

Score Prediction: Brazil 3, Italy 1

 

Japan vs. Mexico

Claudio Villa/Getty Images

Otherwise known as the consolation prize game of Group A. Neither Japan nor Mexico can advance after losing their first two matches, so the result matters about as much as if we all took turns playing it on FIFA 13. But both of these sides have a ton of pride and don't want to join Tahiti (assumedly) as the only squads that go home without a victory.

Japan, pummeled by Brazil in their first match, started showing signs of life against Italy.

They broke out to a quick two-goal lead with strikes from Keisuke Honda and Shinji Kagawa before a few key defensive lapses cost the Japanese a shot at the elimination round. Had Japan not committed a costly penalty in the box that led to a Mario Balotelli score or given up the previously mentioned own goal, it's possible we're having a completely different conversation.

Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

With seven goals allowed in two games, though, Japan has to tighten up their defensive effort. The back of the Japanese line has been dreadful during these first two matches, so much so that it cannot merely be chalked up to playing two top-notch opponents. They've looked little like the squad that has only given up five goals in eight World Cup qualifying matches and came into Brazil as a potential sleeper.

That being said, Japan will be facing off against a Mexico side that could not be confused with a sleeper of any type—mainly because they're playing like they are asleep.

The sleepy Mexico attack that has marred El Tri's friendly slate has only continued in the Confederations Cup. Jose Manuel de la Torre's side has scored just once in two matches, equaling Tahiti as the only two teams without at least three goals. El Chepo is facing innumerable criticisms back in Mexico for his tactics and has had to defend his players against tawdry accusations, per Goal.com's Graeme Young.

It's been a complete mess for Mexico of late. And barring massive breakdowns from Japan, that should only continue on Saturday.

Score Prediction: Japan 2, Mexico 1


Nigeria vs. Spain

Scott Heavey/Getty Images

Playing Spain in the Confederations Cup has not been a fun experience. You know how they say going to Disney is like heaven on earth? Well I can only imagine that playing Spain's national team is akin to spending 90 minutes in that warmer biblical place.

FIFA's top-ranked team has a 12-1 goal differential through its two Confederations Cup matches, pelting the opposition with a jaw-dropping ease.

The Spaniards' tantalizing midfield rendered Uruguay's vaunted attack fangless last weekend, controlling possession for 75 percent of the match.

In typical Spain fashion, they sent passes floating around the attack zone throughout the match, sending Uruguayan defenders into a perpetual state of ping-ponging with their heads. Though Louis Suarez was able to get on the board late for Uruguay for a critical goal, it was little more than filler in a contest where they only had two shots on goal.

And that was nothing compared to Spain's beatdown of Tahiti. Shackling the overmatched Tahitians with consistent attacks around the perimeter, Spain overcame a sluggish start and started packing goals in toward the end of the first half. Ahead only 1-0 through the first 30 minutes, the Spaniards found the back of the net three more times before halftime and wound up with a historic 10-0 victory.

Via 101GreatGoals.com

It was just the third time in history Spain had reached double-digit goals. The 10-goal victory also broke a longstanding record for the largest ever in a FIFA senior event. 

So...that's what Nigeria has to face on Sunday. Something tells me—even with the Nigerians looking very solid in their first two matches—that this isn't going to go well. Nigeria was brilliant against Tahiti and excellent at controlling the pace against Uruguay, but Spain is the best team in the world playing at the height of their abilities.

It might be closer than expected, but Nigeria is going to need a Tahitian upset to advance. 

Score Prediction: Spain 4, Nigeria 0

 

Uruguay vs. Tahiti

Robert Cianflone/Getty Images

Of all the teams in Group B, Uruguay arguably got the most favorable scheduling outlook. They got their match against Spain out of the way first, both a relief and a competitive primer for their critical clash with Nigeria. And by getting a relative bye versus Tahiti with their final match—while getting to play last—Uruguay will know exactly where they stand from a goal differential standpoint.

Should Nigeria lose as expected, Uruguay may choose to use a ton of secondary players in this match. They're going to outclass Tahiti no matter what starting 11 they throw on the pitch, so there is little use in over-expending energy with Italy or Brazil looming.

Alexandre Loureiro/Getty Images

If Nigeria somehow pulls an upset, Uruguay will know to push full throttle and try to eclipse Spain's record for a 10-goal victory. At the bare minimum, Uruguay would have to win their match against Tahiti by five goals in the event of a Nigerian upset.

We've already made it quite clear how we feel about Spain vs. Nigeria. So in turn, don't expect Uruguay to need a massive blowout or to try for one. While I have little doubt they will use this match to get Edinson Cavani's motor running a bit and possibly back onto the scoreboard, all bets are off once Uruguay opens a respectable lead. 

For Tahiti, this will be one last opportunity to go out before an adoring crowd. The underdog Tahitians have been gracious throughout their surprising entry into this field, and the Cinderella bunch has gotten a warm reception from crowds as a result. 

Score Prediction: Uruguay 4, Tahiti 0 

 

Complete 2013 Confederations Cup Group Schedule

*Courtesy of FIFA.com

Group A

Match No.

When

Where

Watch

Country  

Country 

9

June 22 at 3 p.m. ET

Salvador

ESPN

Italy

Brazil

10

June 22 at 3 p.m. ET

Belo Horizonte

ESPN2

Japan

Mexico

Group B

Match No. 

When

Where

 Watch

 Country

Country 

11

June 23 at 3 p.m. ET

Fortaleza

ESPN

Nigeria

Spain

12

June 23 at 3 p.m. ET 

Recife

ESPN2

Uruguay

Tahiti

Follow Tyler Conway on Twitter:

Load More Stories

Follow B/R on Facebook

Out of Bounds

World Football

Subscribe Now

We will never share your email address

Thanks for signing up.