FIFA Confederations Cup 2013: Stars Who Face the Most PressureJune 16, 2013
The Confederations Cup is underway in Brazil. The host country and two-time defending tournament champions hope to continue their dominance, but there's no shortage of star power on the other teams planning on ending that streak.
Even though the event isn't on the same level as the World Cup, which will take place in Brazil next summer, the big-tournament atmosphere is still in place. It puts a lot of pressure on the top players to make sure their sides make deep runs.
With that in mind, let's examine three offensive stars who must shine for their respective national teams to succeed over the next couple weeks. For more information on when to catch all of these players in action, visit the tournament's official site.
Neymar got his tournament off to a strong start against Japan. It's going to take a lot more than one good match against the weakest team in the group to sway the doubters, however. He must play at that level all the way through the event.
Brazil is relying on him to become the game-changer capable of carrying the national team back to its previous heights. He's surrounded by a solid supporting cast, including Thiago Silva and Oscar, but Neymar needs to carry the torch.
He's certainly capable, as he displayed early in the first match with a terrific goal, but handling the consistent pressure will be a challenge. How he handles it in this tournament and moving forward is key to the Selecao's success.
Javier Hernandez (Mexico)
Mexico has been playing extremely well defensively. Between World Cup qualifying and friendlies, the team racked up clean sheets in three straight matches and five of its past six. Four of those turned into scoreless draws because the offense has been virtually silent.
That's where Hernandez must come into play. The Manchester United striker was in fine form earlier in the year, scoring four international goals, but he has been slumping recently. Without his production up front, it's easy to understand why El Tri are struggling to score.
Mexico will go up against some very talented attacks, including Neymar and Co. during the group stage, which means the defensive wall can only hold up for so long. It will need more offensive pressure of its own to survive, and the onus falls to Hernandez.
Luis Suarez (Uruguay)
Suarez is a special player, there's no doubt about that. He can score highlight-reel goals and carry teams on his back when he's in top form, as he's often done with Liverpool. At the same time, incidents like biting Branislav Ivanovic near the end of the club campaign hold him back.
At 26, it's time for him to turn the corner by putting those antics behind him. Uruguay is a sleeper contender in the tournament because of its attacking firepower, but it can only make a deep run if he's focused and leading the charge.
Other players know his history. They will try to get under his skin, especially if the Celeste reach the knockout stage. Everyone will be watching to see how he responds. Uruguay needs him to remain calm under pressure and score some key goals along the way.