Confederations Cup 2013 Round Up:
The Confederations Cup; World Cup warm up and off-season filler, usually it garners little attention, often being televised at awkward times. However, this time round it felt a little different. The spotlight was already on Brazil ahead of doubts over the country’s ability to competently host the World Cup. Further scrutiny followed as the country’s populace took action against the extravagant public spending going into funding the World Cup whilst public transport remains poor. The world was watching, could the tournament deliver?
The answer would absolutely be yes it did. As the populace took to the streets, the teams delivered on the pitch. With the long hoped for and expected final of Brazil-Spain finally happening, a true underdog to route for in Tahiti, and goals; great goals and lots of them, with an average of 4.25 goals a game and the Spain-Italy semi-final being the only goalless game of the tournament. After a steady and gradual start, the tournament reached it’s climax as Brazil hit top gear, pulling off a stellar performance to dispatch World and European champions Spain with ease, a 3-0 score line flattering the Spanish. So how did all of the teams fare?
Brazil: Brazil made a slow if steady start to the tournament, in which Neymar set about proving doubters wrong with a series of excellent performances, but some of the Seleção’s other stars didn’t quite live up to expectations. Oscar and Dani Alves struggled to impose themselves on games in they way we all know that they can, most concerning however, were the performances of Thiago Silva. Touted by many as the best defender of his generation, the usually reliable centre back looked uncharacteristically error prone, despite putting in a solid performance come the final against Spain.
Best Player: Several players have a right to lay stake to claim to be Brazil’s player of the cup; Fred for his prolific goal plundering, David Luiz for a series of outstanding performances that culminated in his quite simply stunning goal line clearance in the final and Paulinho for his excellent pressing, box-to-box runs and late goal against Uruguay that put Brazil into the final. However, it has to be Neymar that takes top spot. Notching up four goals and several assists, Neymar’s outstanding performances against some of the world’s best teams and players defied opinions that he was overrated and made the huge fee paid for him recently look that little bit more reasonable.
Italy: It was an unusual tournament for Italy, very much a case of nearly but not quite for the Azzurri. A stoic defeat against the in-form Brazil was followed by an agonising defeat on penalties against Spain, despite an excellent performance, draws attention away from the way Italy struggled to overcome both Japan and Mexico. Similarly whilst Maggio and Giaccherini impressed and Balotelli seems finally to have come of age, others seemed to be on the wane, with Andrea Barzagli having lost more than just a yard of pace and Buffon in particular looked error prone.
Best Player: Chiellini and Balotelli both come close, but Italy’s player of the tournament has to be Danielle de Rossi. Regardless of his club form, when called up for his national side, de Rossi always seems to be imperious and the Confederations Cup proved no different. Putting in several man of the match performances, the natural leader was excellent in midfield, but was also able to seamlessly drop back and marshal the defence when required. His all action displays were exemplified by the group match against Japan, in which de Rossi’s all round excellence, was topped with a goal.
Japan: It was a poor tournament for Japan. Faced with a tough group they were never favourites to challenge for the Confederations Cup, but even so the Japanese will no doubt be disappointed that they couldn’t perform better and at least put a point on the board. Against eventual winners Brazil, Japan never threatened and whilst they improved against Italy, Japan were again disappointing against Mexico.
Best Player: It’s hard to pick a best player from amongst Japan’s under-performers, with Keisuki Honda a particularly disappointing culprit. However, Kagawa was solid if not outstanding, good with possession and improving against Italy to put in a fine display.
Mexico: Unable to repeat the heroics of their Gold Cup victory, Mexico did very much as expected, losing to Brazil and Italy, albeit whilst also putting in respectable performances and admirably defeating Japan.
Best Player: Andrés Guardado was excellent for Mexico all tournament. Getting up and down the left hand side excellently, Guardado was at the heart of everything good Mexico did and provided great creative foil for Giovanni dos Santos and Javier Hernandez.
Nigeria: Nigeria have recently emerged from what has been a difficult period for the team in recent years with their 2013 African Cup of Nations victory. Stephen Keshi reshaped the squad, refusing to pick what he viewed as egotistical big name players whose reputations were undeserved and instead assembled a young squad with a core of eight home-based players. Repeated success was never on the cards for Nigeria at the Confederations Cup and Keshi and his team should just take the tournament as great competitive experience and an opportunity for development.
Best Player: Ahmed Musa was excellent on the right side all cup for Nigeria, his incisive and direct style of play and impressive dribbling causing difficulty for every side he faced. His great tournament caps an outstanding year for Musa in which he established himself as a CSKA Moscow regular, notching 15 goals in 35 appearances. Musa made two assists in the Confederations Cup.
Spain: In the group stage of the tournament, Spain looked excellent. Deploying either Fernando Torres or Robert Soldado upfront, rather than Cesc Fàbregas as a false number nine, there seemed to be a verve and incision to Spain’s passing style as Spain humiliated Tahiti and breezed past Nigeria and Uruguay. However, signs that Spain may not walk to another cup victory became apparent in the semi-final against Italy and although Spain were eventually victorious on penalties, they were truly matched, with Italy spurning several opportunities to score through Maggio.
Best Player: Whilst Fernando Torres and David Villa notched up 5 and 3 goals respectively, these figures are inflated by the Tahiti drubbing and in actuality both players are not of the class they once were and this showed once Spain faced off against sterner opposition. Jesús Navas impressed in his cameo appearance and will be disappointed that he didn’t get more player time, but it was only Andrés Iniesta that ever was consistantly excellent.
Tahiti: Tournament underdogs Tahiti captured the hearts of neutrals across the world and were passionately cheered on in every game they played, but ultimately and unfortunately were unable to overcome their billing as group whipping boys, failing to earn a point. Two saved penalties against Uruguay and Spain and a goal against Nigeria gave fans something to cheer about, in the end Tahiti’s amateur’s did exactly as expected.
Best Player: Whilst Steevy Chong Hue and Jonathan Tehau both earned plaudits for their direct attacking runs, in reality no Tahiti player particularly impressed, their amateur status showing. If one had to pick a best player for Tahiti, it has to be Marama Vahirua. The only professional player in the Tahiti squad, the Panthrakikos forward’s extra quality was evident.
Uruguay: Uruguay have been a team on the wane ever since their 2011 Copa America success. Having struggled in the qualification stage for the 2014 World Cup, Uruguay have looked a shadow of the team that made the semi-final of the 2010 World Cup, but this year’s Confederations Cup marks somewhat of a revival. Uruguay put in a series of impressive displays and were only narrowly beaten by Brazil in the semi-final. The older players in the squad proved that they still have much to offer, with Diego Forlán in particular impressing and the squad’s younger players showing that there is hope for the future of the Urugay side, with Abel Hernandez, Gastón Ramírez and Nicolás Lodeiro all impressing at some point to defy their recent disappointing Olympic failure.
Best Player: El Matatdor, Edinson Cavani and the infamous Louis Suarez both did what they do best and bagged three goals each and either could lay claim to the accolade of Uruguay’s best player of the Confederations Cup, but it is Walter Gargano that must take the title. The Inter Milan midfielder put in several dominant performances and lay on three assists for his team. On the other hand, Diego Lugano further showed signs that he is declining as a player.