With the conclusion of the African Cup of Nations today, the field of eight is now set for the Confederations Cup this summer.
With the run to the final round the U.S. made during the 2009 Confed Cup, I’ve become a pretty big fan of the tournament. It’s a perfect primer for the real tournament the following summer as it’s played in the host nation for the upcoming World Cup.
In 2009, we got our first taste of international football in South Africa. With those 13 months of preparation, you would’ve thought that ESPN had the sense to realize that vuvuzelas would be just as annoying in 2010, but that’s beside the point. With Brazil hosting the World Cup for the first time since 1950, it’s sure to be a show.
And the teams involved are an improvement over the 2009 tourney. Let’s take a look at the teams, sorted by group (how they qualified in parenthesis):
- Brazil (2014 World Cup host)
- Italy (2012 UEFA Euro 2012 runners-up)
- Japan (2011 AFC Asian Cup winner)
- Mexico (2011 CONCACAF Gold Cup winner)
Talk about a Group of Death. All four teams qualified for the 2010 World Cup and three of the four advanced to the knockout stage. The only one that didn’t make it out of the group stage, Italy, is actually the second-best team in the group (on paper). In a perfect world, them and Brazil would advance, but this tournament is notorious for upsets and Italy is notorious for being upset. Japan and Mexico have more than enough talent to advance as well.
Just a note about the qualification: Since Spain won both the 2010 World Cup and Euro 2012 (which are both methods of qualification), Italy was chosen as the Euro runner-up.
- Nigeria (2013 Africa Cup of Nations winner)
- Spain (2010 World Cup winner)
- Tahiti (2012 OFC Nations Cup winner)
- Uruguay (2011 Copa América winner)
This group is a different story. Spain and Uruguay are clearly the favorites. Both have been on an international tear since the World Cup, but Spain’s form has been in another stratosphere, going unbeaten in their last 18 matches.
Nigeria and Tahiti will be game, though. Nigeria should be, at least. The AfCON winners have qualified for four of the last five World Cups, winning their group twice. It will be interesting to see how Tahiti fares against the world’s best. They’ve never qualified for a World Cup and their OFC Nations Cup win was their first ever. From what I can tell, they’ve never qualified for an international tournament before. But that’s to be expected from OFC teams not named New Zealand.
Even without the U.S., it will be a great tournament. The 2013 Confederations Cup will be played from June 15-30. I believe it will be broadcast on ESPN.
Since two teams from the same confederation cannot play in the same group, Spain had to be in a different group from Italy and Uruguay had to be in a different group from Brazil.