Next month is the start of the commonly overlooked FIFA Confederations Cup. The tournament comes around every four years, and is a sort of Club World Cup for International sides, as it brings together only a few teams from different regions. It isn’t valued as highly as the World Cup or even regional international tournaments, but there are several very good reasons to watch it.
Firstly, there will be some quality football on display. Because the tournament brings together winners and runners up from regional competitions, great footballing nations such as Brazil, Spain, Italy, Nigeria and Uruguay are all represented. Watching the likes of Neymar, Iniesta, Balotelli, Moses and Forlan in competition should entice any footballing fan. Big names have tended to shine in the tournament’s history, as Golden Boot winners in Confederations Cups since 1999 include Ronaldhino, Patrick Viera, Thierry Henry, Adriano and Luis Fabiano.
Also, because players are not under the same pressure and scrutiny as during a World Cup, they often play with more open and enterprising intent. For example, the last edition in 2009 featured 44 goals in just 16 total matches despite Iraq and New Zealand not scoring in any of their three games. The tournament also often gives fans the chance to see exciting and talented youngsters.
Jozy Altidore celebrates his 27th minute goal against Spain in 2009 FIFA Confederation Cup
Another reason to tune in is because the competition has a history of thrilling upsets. Incredibly, every edition of the tournament has produced at least one major upset despite all featuring 16 or fewer matches. In 2009, the USA beat the mighty Spanish 2-0 in the semi-finals and Egypt upset Italy 1-0. In 2005, Mexico beat Brazil, and in 2003 Brazil were again upset, that time by Cameroon. 2001 saw Australia overcome France, while in 1999 the United States outplayed Germany, winning 2-0. Australia made the final in 1997 by knocking out Uruguay, and the UAE beat South Africa that same year. Denmark beat Argentina in the 1995 final, and the first ever edition in 1992 witnessed Saudi Arabia trounce the USA 3-0.
Aside from the potential for excitement and upsets, the tournament is also a chance for fans to get a sneak preview at what the 2014 World Cup in Brazil will look like. Matches will take place in six different cities around the country, and not simply at the largest ones. The most populous city of Sao Paulo is hosting no games, while the much smaller Recife and Belo Horizonte are. Fans will therefore discover more of the country, as well as seeing beautiful and unique stadiums such as the Estádio Nacional in Brasilia and the historic Maracanã in Rio.
GoalControl will be responsible for goal line technology at the 2013 FIFA Confederations Cup
Fans are also sure to find debate over the inclusion of goal-line technology in the tournament. FIFA have announced German company GoalControl GmbH will be in charge of this vital task, and they will use 14 high-speed cameras around the pitch to determine if the ball has crossed the goal line. The system is also scheduled to be used in the World Cup the following year, so expect a high level of scrutiny, and potentially controversy, to surround GoalControl.
The eight competing nations are Brazil, Japan, Spain, Mexico, Uruguay, Tahiti, Italy and Nigeria. The hosts and Spain will start as favourites, yet given the mentioned upsets this competition has thrown up, do not be surprised if those two do not meet in, or even make, the final. The only country you can really say with certainty won’t win is Tahiti. Most will view their group match against Spain on June 20th as a foregone conclusion, but bear in mind that in 2001, a plucky Oceania qualifier did beat the reigning World and European Champions in this very tournament.