Confederations Cup 2013: Players Who Will Make Biggest Difference This Weekend
Thank goodness for the 2013 Confederations Cup.
Contrasting what has become the norm for international football, the Confederations Cup has featured exciting football played at a pretty high pace. Coaches aren't afraid to play more open, attacking football, perhaps because this tournament is lightly regarded by everyone.
With so many strong teams, it's no surprise that individual performances have captivated fans around the globe.
The tournament is beginning to wind down, with Brazil already having booked their place in the final. Spain vs. Italy is yet to kick off. No matter the result of that match, the final will pit two of the biggest sides in the world, each packed with highly regarded footballers.
Here are four players who could have a major impact on this weekend's fixtures.
This tournament has been all about Neymar so far. He didn't score in the semifinal, but he had a huge hand in each of Brazil's two goals.
It was Neymar who chested the ball down in the box which eventually led to Fred's goal. Then it was a corner from the forward that found the head of Paulinho for the winner.
After watching the 21-year-old forward, his critics have been left speechless. Sure Neymar has some holes in his game to work on. What talented footballer didn't at his age? He looks perfectly prepared to slot right into the Barcelona starting XI and play in La Liga.
Neymar has displayed creativity, finishing and playmaking. You couldn't ask anymore of him. It's a great sign for Brazil as this is his first international tournament with the senior team.
If Neymar plays this well next summer, he'll be the king of football. Although he's got to do something about the diving.
As good as Neymar has been, perhaps no Brazilian has helped his stock more than Paulinho. Even before he headed in the winning goal against Uruguay, the 24-year-old had been having a fabulous Confederations Cup.
Paulinho has been the lynchpin in Brazil's midfield. It's nice having Luiz Gustavo and Oscar. If there isn't the link between the two, though, you've got a fractured team.
His performance won't come as a shock to those who have been following Brazilian football or watched Corinthians beat Chelsea in the 2012 Club World Cup. Paulinho has consistently put in strong showings for his club, and now he's carrying it over to the national team.
Watching Brazil, it's hard to remember how disorganized they've looked for the past few months to a year. With Neymar and Paulinho at the fore, this is a squad that will be a major threat in 2014.
David Silva, Spain
With Cesc Fabregas' injury, Marca is reporting David Silva will start in his place, per the AFP's Tom Williams.
Marca reporting David Silva and Fernando Torres will start for Spain against Italy later. Cesc Fabregas has not overcome his muscle injury.— Tom Williams (@tomwfootball) June 27, 2013
For almost any other country in the world, Silva would be in the starting XI for every match. Since he plays for Spain, he's left sitting behind the likes of Fabregas, Xavi and Andres Iniesta.
Fabregas' availability for the final or consolation game is still up in the air. If Silva gets the opportunity, expect him to make the most of it. Silva is a tremendous playmaker who is at his best when playing in an advanced position.
There will be little drop-off for Spain in going from Fabregas to Silva.
Brazil haven't been great in defense. The window is there for Silva to tear apart the Brazilian back four and open up chances for his teammates in the 18-yard box.
Against Uruguay, Silva would need to be at his best to break down what looked to be a very organized Uruguayan defense against Brazil.
Daniele De Rossi, Italy
If Italy get to the final, Daniele De Rossi will have played a large role in the semifinal win. He's one of the best defensive midfielders in the world.
At time of writing, it's still unknown what kind of formation Cesare Prandelli will use against Spain. He could go with a more conventional back four, or opt for a three-man back line that was so successful in the Euro 2012 group stage.
Whether it's in midfield or as a sweeper, De Rossi is a key cog in Prandelli's formation.
Against Brazil, he would act as the first line of defense against Neymar, Oscar and Paulinho. Those three have done very well in this tournament. In the third-place game, De Rossi would be going up against Luis Suarez, Diego Forlan and Edinson Cavani.
Considering how poor Italy have been at the back, there's going to be a lot of weight on De Rossi's shoulders.
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