The Confederations Cup (Copa das Confederações) is usually regarded as just a lead-up to what really matters: the FIFA World Cup. But at the matches in practice – which take place exactly a year before the big event – emotions ride a lot higher than if it were just a regular training or friendly match.
Argentina, for example, took its 4-1 defeat very seriously back in 2005, when Kaká, Ronaldinho, and Adriano led the team with a whole lot of samba. Olé, Argentina’s main sports newspaper, went to press without a cover the next day, pretending something had gone wrong in order to avoid commemorating their sworn rivals’ victory in print.
Started in 1992, this alternative international tournament was, in its first two incarnations, held in Saudia Arabia under the name of the King Fahd Cup. In 1997, the ball was passed to FIFA, which gave it its current name and took over the organisation of the tournament with eight participating countries. As in the all-important World Cup, Brazil has already established itself as champion, having won the Confederations Cup three times.
The defending champions square up
This year, the hosts are also the tournament’s defending champions. And although Messi’s team didn’t qualify, leaving Brazil free from worrying about Argentinian revenge, it doesn’t mean that things are going to be easy. Brazil’s group faces an array of formidable opponents.
In the first phase alone, Coach Felipão’s team faces traditional threats Italy, and Mexico, which prevented Brazil from winning the ever-so-coveted Olympic gold last year. Brazil will also have to overcome both FIFA’s first-ranked Spain, and Uruguay, winner of the 2011 Copa América.
With the Brazilian team already set, they’re counting on the skills of forward star Neymar, who leaves for Barcelona at the tournament’s end; the versatility of defensive midfielder Paulinho; and the safety of centre back player Thiago Silva, in order to win their way back to being one of the best teams in the world.
Held in five different Brazilian state capitals, the Confederations Cup is expected to draw throngs of yellow-and-green-outfitted fans to the new and freshly renovated stadiums. São Paulo, which is slated to host the opening of the World Cup, isn’t part of this year’s circuit, which means that paulistanos will have to travel elsewhere to see any games in person.
Even if Brazil loses this year’s contest, it should gain some consolation from the superstitious belief that the Confederations Cup champion stands little chance of winning the World Cup: to date, no team has won both tournaments’ cups two years in a row in any of the eight Confederations Cup competitions. Should Brazil take the international contest’s top spot, however, where better to reverse this curse than right here at home?
The FIFA Confederations Cup 2013 is on 15-30 June, in Rio de Janeiro, Belo Horizonte, Salvador, Fortaleza, Brasília and Recife. For tickets and information, see fifa.com.