Confederations Cup 2013: Players Who Must Step Up in Final Stretch of Tournament
The 2013 Confederations Cup has seen some outstanding individual performances thus far. But with the final four teams set to engage in the knockout stage, the time is now for important players to step up their game.
Brazil's Neymar has stolen the show throughout play thus far. The 21-year-old dynamo scored three goals in as many matches to lead the Brazilians to a perfect 3-0 record in group play.
However, with two semifinal matches and the final still left to play, there's plenty of time for other stars to leave their impact on the event.
Here's a look at the players who need to up their level of play if they are to lead their nation to the championship.
Note: All statistics via WhoScored.com unless otherwise noted.
Uruguay: Edinson Cavani
Uruguay will be assigned the difficult task of upsetting Brazil in their home environment. Fortunately, they have the firepower to get it done—provided they see Edinson Cavani step up in the tournament's final stages.
La Celeste boasts one of the more talented scoring duos in Cavani and Luis Suarez, but the Napoli striker hasn't held up his end of the bargain in Confederations Cup play.
Against the daunting back line of Spain, Cavani was nearly invisible. While Suarez found the net in limited opportunities, Cavani was limited to just one shot.
While Cavani's numbers would obviously be better if he would have had a crack at the weak Tahiti defense, he had disappointing matches against Spain and Nigeria.
Uruguay will need all the help they can get to beat Brazil and advance to the finals. Having Cavani in top form would be a huge boost.
Brazil: Thiago Silva
It's really difficult to criticize anyone on the Brazilian side right now. After all, they appear to be the only team with a shot at upsetting Spain after their strong group play performance.
However, captain Thiago Silva's play hasn't been at the same level as his teammates on the other end of the field.
A Selecao now has two clean sheets in three games, but according to WhoScored.com's match rating metric, he's had the lowest rating in the back line in two of the three games, only getting over the 7.0 mark against Japan.
Brazil's goal scoring relieves a lot of pressure on the defense. Their four goals against Italy soften the blow of giving up two goals to Azzurri. Against the likes of Spain, things will be much more difficult.
Italy: Andrea Pirlo
Andrea Pirlo missed Italy's loss to Brazil due to a leg injury, but according to SkySports, is a possibility to play in the match against Spain.
It's really key to Azzurri's chances that the veteran midfielder does return to the lineup against Spain. The same report from SkySports rules Mario Balotelli out of the game; he has scored two of Italy's eight goals in the tournament thus far.
Pirlo has notched one goal and one assist in his two appearances thus far. With the Italian lineup hobbled by injury, he'll have to make a quick recovery on the pitch.
A sensational match from Pirlo may be the Italians' only hope of keeping things interesting against Spain's strong XI.
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