Confederations Cup preview
The Confederation Cup, a mini-dress rehearsal for the 2014 World Cup, kicks off in Brazil tomorrow night when the hosts and defending champions take on Japan in the opening Group A fixture.
Brazil are 6/4 favourites with Coral to win the tournament and should certainly progress to the semi-finals from a group also comprising Italy and Mexico. It will be an even bigger shock if current World and European champions, Spain (13/8 to win the tournament outright), don’t reach the last four from Group B, which also includes Uruguay, Nigeria and Tahiti.
Indeed, it’s looking good on paper for a Brazil-Spain final showdown on June 30th, a climax many punters are also anticipating in Rio next year – Coral make Brazil 100/30 favourites to take the World Cup from 5/1 shots Spain.
The Confederations Cup, though missing other world powerhouses like Argentina and Germany, is still a prestigious prize in its own right (extensive coverage on BBC) and, judging by the squads, all participants are taking it extremely seriously.
Brazil need a good tournament to pacify their demanding and passionate fans following some indifferent displays, which includes their recent 2-2 draw with England. They have beaten France 3-0 since and could now be moving through the gears, so it’s not just home advantage that makes them such a big danger to Spain.
Neymar, their new young star, will be under pressure to deliver, especially following his recent move away to Barcelona, but as usual Brazil can boast attacking threats all over the park from such as Hulk, Fred and Oscar. They should certainly prove too strong for an efficient but limited Japan side and a comfortable victory is anticipated, perhaps 2-0 (11/2) or 3-0 (15/2)
Italy against Mexico should be more closely-fought, although this might be a good time to be playing the Azzuri so soon after their humiliating draw against Haiti. Coral’s 9/4 Mexico makes some appeal.
Eight teams will be battling it out for the Confederations Cup over the next fortnight, but realistically only five can win it with Africa Cup of Nations champions Nigeria (33/1) and Japan (40/1) unlikely to progress beyond the group stages and Tahiti (2,500-1) just making up the numbers.
Uruguay (10/1 with Coral) could be the dark horses. Any team with Luis Suarez and Edinson Cavani (wanted by Chelsea and Real Madrid) as its strikeforce commands great respect and they also have Diego Forlan to call upon.
Many will remember Forlan, now 34, most for his hit-and-miss spell with Manchester United a decade ago, but it should also be remembered that he won the Golden Ball as best player at the last World Cup in South Africa and has continued to shine for the current Copa America champions. All being well, Forlan will become the first to gain 100 caps for Uruguay in the next week. He is also his country’s all-time record goalscorer with a better than one-in-three return.
Written by Jon Freeman