If the semifinals of the 2013 Confederations Cup are anything like the group stage, then fans are in for some great football.
One of the biggest complaints about international football is that the tournaments are all boring and never live up to the hype. Teams are under so much pressure that they usually sit back and try to avoid any sort of risk.
That hasn't happened in the Confederations Cup. Possibly since it's not a highly regarded tournament, managers have not been afraid to open up the play. The quality of football has been high, as has the excitement.
With so few teams, as well, the tournament is not bogged down by a bunch of lesser teams. The semifinals features two matches between intercontinental rivals. It doesn't get much better than this.
Here's the schedule for each semifinal match.
|Match||Date||Time (ET)||TV||Live Stream|
|Brazil vs. Uruguay||Wednesday, June 26||3 p.m.||ESPN||ESPN3|
|Spain vs. Italy||Thursday, June 27||3 p.m.||ESPN||ESPN3|
Players to Watch
This tournament has been Neymar's coming-out party. The Confederations Cup is his first tournament with the senior team, and likely the first time that many fans have seen him in competitive matches.
The 21-year-old striker has made the most of the stage, scoring three goals in the group stage and giving fans a taste of what he'll bring to Barcelona next season.
Neymar has put both his dribbling and finishing on display. His three goals have been well-struck, and his assist for Jo's goal against Mexico was a thing of beauty.
Even some of Neymar's harshest critics have to concede that the player has done as well as you could possibly expect. If he plays this well for Barcelona, it's going to be an exciting season in the Camp Nou.
Fernando Torres, Spain
Fernando Torres has made the most of his opportunities this tournament. He started against Tahiti and scored four goals. Then he came on as a substitute against Nigeria and scored a goal.
Although his form at Chelsea has often been the butt of jokes, Torres manages to put in good performances for Spain. He seems much more comfortable with the side. Who wouldn't benefit from playing with Xavi and Andres Iniesta?
Vicente del Bosque has started Roberto Soldado against both Uruguay and Nigeria. With Torres' form, though, it's hard to put him on the bench. He's been the better of the two and deserves the start against Italy.
Even if Torres starts on the bench, he'll likely come on as a sub.
Brazil vs. Uruguay
This could be an intriguing matchup if Uruguay play up to their potential. They've got so many talented players and yet they have struggled in the tournament. Win over Tahiti aside, Uruguay have looked disorganized at times, and Edinson Cavani in particular has been very wasteful in the attack.
Brazil, on the other hand, have looked very good. They struggled a bit as the match with Mexico dragged on, but they were never really threatened against El Tri. Luiz Felipe Scolari has his team playing its best football in a year or so.
The Selecao shouldn't have much trouble with this one. Paulinho, Oscar and Luiz Gustavo have done very well in midfield, and Neymar and Hulk have provided more than enough in the attack.
Although Uruguay could pull out the victory, it's hard to look past the hosts. They looked so strong in the group stage and have the home crowd to spur them on. It will be a comfortable win for Brazil.
Brazil 3, Uruguay 1
Spain vs. Italy
FIFA broke the news on Monday that Mario Balotelli would be out for the rest of the tournament with a thigh injury.
That's a huge loss for Cesare Prandelli as Balotelli has made a major positive impact on this tournament. Under Prandelli, Super Mario is much more behaved, bringing out the best from the 22-year-old striker on the pitch.
Without him, the Azzurri will have a hard time getting past Spain.
La Roja have looked dominant in this tournament. They've controlled possession and squeezed the life from their competition. Del Bosque has done a great job bringing in a couple of new players and tinkering with the formation just enough to keep opponents guessing.
If Prandelli tries to go right at Spain the way he did at the 2012 Euros, Italy are toast. The best chance Italy have is to play defensively and take whatever they can get on the counter.
This match will be close, but Spain will advance to the final.
Spain 2, Italy 1