football

Another Summer of Football: Your Guide To The Confederations Cup

June 15, 2017

- Grant Whittington

The Confederations Cup reaches its very own ‘La Decima’ as the tenth edition of this quadrennial competition in Russia provides a dress rehearsal for the 2018 World Cup. The 2017 tournament will be the first time in FIFA Confederations Cup history that three national teams from any single confederation (Russia, Germany and Portugal from UEFA) will participate in the tournament.

Reigning champions Brazil defeated Spain 3-0 in the final back in 2013 to secure a record fourth Confederations title, but they will not be boarding the plane to the world’s largest country following their elimination to Paraguay in the quarter-finals of the 2015 Copa America.

It may not have the prestige of the World Cup or the Euros, but the Confederations Cup remains a major event for any football fan and for some nations it is the closest they may ever get to lifting the hallowed Jules Rimet trophy.

The first round of group stage fixtures commence on Saturday and football enthusiasts can get an early glimpse into those likely to give strong showings on an elevated platform in 12 months time. Spanning across four different cities, here is our team-by-team guide to proceedings in Russia.

Group A

Russia

Their embarrassing Euro 2016 exit was described by the country’s press as a “disgrace” and therefore the performance of the host nation here will be highly scrutinised. Head coach Stanislav Cherchesov took over the squad in August 2016, but they have won only three out of nine games since his appointment, with humiliating losses at home against Costa Rica and away at Qatar.

The Sbornaya hasn’t won a major tournament since they were the Soviet Union, beating the also-defunct Yugoslavia 2-1 in the 1960 European Nations’ Cup. With a squad made up entirely of local league talent, this tournament provides the Russians with an opportunity to restore some national pride.

Star Player: FC Krasnodar forward Fyodor Smolov, who was the Russian League’s top scorer last season with 18 goals.

Odds: 9/1 (Bet365)

New Zealand

The Kiwis are overwhelming underdogs and are the lowest ranked nation in the competition (95th in the world). Whilst other nations are brimming with world-class talent throughout, New Zealand’s squad comprises of professional, semi-professional and amateur footballers. Don’t underestimate the importance of the $5,000,000 prize money which will significantly strengthen their footballing infrastructure, but they will struggle to accumulate many points on the pitch in what is an extremely competitive Group A.

Star Player:  Bill Tuilloma – the 22-year-old fullback currently plays for Marseille and is the first New Zealander to ply his trade in France’s top division.

Odds: 500/1 (Bet365)

Mexico

El Tri are the only team in this year’s edition to have won the tournament before and despite the criticism of head coach Juan Carlos Osorio, his impressive record of 18 wins from 24 matches is testament to a very talented Mexican side. They have set the pace in the CONCACAF qualifiers and on paper have a fantastic chance of making it into the knockout stages. However, the possibility of facing Copa America Champions Chile or World Cup Champions Germany is very high and this could spell the end of their campaign.

Star Player: Javier ”Chicharito” Hernandez arrives in Russia fresh from becoming Mexico’s all-time leading scorer by netting his 47th international goal.

Odds: 9/1 (William Hill)

Portugal

Most of the players who helped Portugal win its first major title at Euro 2016 will be back for their Confederations Cup debut. With a setup based on solid foundations and effective counterattacking, Cristiano Ronaldo and company should cruise through this group and have an excellent shot at making another final. At 13/5, they’re up there as one of the favourites according to the Confederations Cup odds market, very much unlike Euro 2016.

Star Player: No surprises here, but expect the aforementioned Ronaldo to once again produce something extraordinary. Also keep an eye on Bernardo and Andre Silva, who were summer signings for Manchester City and AC Milan respectively, as they make their first tournament appearances for A Seleção.

Odds: 13/5 (Betway)

Group B

Germany

Despite Joachim Low wanting to rest several players and test out some younger prospects, the reigning World Cup champions are still able to boast a formidable side and are the team to beat going into this event. Only three players remain from their 2014 triumph, but one can never write off the Germans.

Star Player: RB Leipzig’s Timo Werner netted 20 times in the Bundesliga last season.

Odds: 2/1 (Ladbrokes)

Australia

The boys from the land down under have continued to improve since their switch from the OFC to the AFC in 2005 which has provided increased competition and helped develop football in the country. They have qualified for the last three World Cups and defeated South Korea to win the 2015 AFC Asian Cup.

Star Player: Queens Park Ranger’s midfielder Massimo Luongo was crowned player of the tournament following their Asian Cup triumph.

Odds: 40/1 (Ladbrokes)

Chile

La Roja have been virtually unstoppable in the past two years picking up Copa America titles in both 2015 and 2016. However, they’ve failed to win any of their last five World Cup qualifiers on the road, losing four and drawing one of those games. Despite this, Chile have the skill to defeat any other squad in the competition and in Alexis Sanchez and Arturo Vidal they possess genuine world-class talent.

Star Player: Arsenal’s Sanchez is the creative spark and is now just one goal behind Chile’s all-time top scorer Marcelo Salas.

Odds: 11/4 (SkyBet)

Cameroon

A team in transition and the biggest outsider in Group B. For years the country was dependent on superstar forward Samuel Eto’o, but even though the squad has been rebuilt, it was still a shock for them to win the African Cup of Nations earlier this year.

Star Player: Vincent Aboubakar is the country’s biggest star. On loan from Porto Aboubakar has scored ten goals in 23 games for Beşiktaş. A striker with a strong physical presence Aboubakar will be the country’s danger man.

Odds: 25/1 (SkyBet)

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