What did the Confederations Cup tell us about World Cup 2014?
The 2013 Confederations Cup in Brazil proved to be an enthralling tournament and a perfect taster for next year’s World Cup. Over the past couple of weeks, there has been goals galore, controversial incidents and not forgetting the carnival atmosphere created by the crowds, who in turn, proved influential in roaring Brazil on to their third consecutive Confederations Cup success.
While the competition, which invites the winners of FIFA’s six regional confederation tournaments plus the reigning world champions, was nothing more than a minor dress rehearsal in some of the venues that will be used in 12 months time, there were plenty of clues on offer about what can be expected on the pitch from some of the leading nations.
Here are our top five observations from the Confederations Cup.
1. A re-match of Spain v Brazil would be the dream final
Brazil vs Spain was the final everybody craved. The two best teams in the world locked horns at the visually stunning Maracana stadium in front of 73,531 excited and passionate fans.
The result turned out to be a surprising one, with Brazil stunning Spain 3-0 and, in truth, it could have been more. We could well witness a repeat at the World Cup and on this performance, there would only be one winner.
Brazil have now remarkably not lost a competitive match on home soil since 1975 and Sunday’s win was enough to make the host nation the clear favourites to lift the title for the first time since 2002 and put an end to Spain’s domination of international football.
2. Brazil showcase potential as hosts
One thing is for sure, Brazil as a country can put on a sizzling show. The venues were fabulous, crowds vociferous and pitches in perfect condition.
The only drawback was the on-going social unrest and protests which marred an otherwise perfect appetiser. The potential for a breathtaking 2014 World Cup is there, but the off-field problems must be sorted out soon.
3. Neymar is the real deal
Everyone already knew what a huge talent the Brazilian superstar was but those who doubted his credentials were made to eat their words as the 21-year-old stole the show. The sensational striker was instrumental in Brazil’s third successive Confederations Cup success, winning the Golden Ball award in the process.
He flourished on home soil with the fervent support spurring him on to stunning highs, scoring in all but one of Brazil’s five matches, including the pivotal second goal in their final win over Spain.
Having recently joined Barcelona, European football fans have extra reason to look forward to watching the ‘Catalan giants’ this coming season and if the former Santos youngster can replicate in Europe what he has shown in South America, Barca could take some stopping on the domestic front in La Liga and the Champions League in 2013/2014.
4. Spain should not be ruled out
One defeat does not end an era. Spain simply didn’t turn up to the Confederations Cup final but that should by no means rule them out of the running next summer in their bid to win back-to-back World Cup titles.
Vicente del Bosque’s men will recuperate and learn from their mistakes and, judging by the Under 21 side’s win at the 2013 European Championships, they have an avalanche of talent in their ranks ready to step up.
Prior to Sunday’s loss, the senior team had set an unbelievable world record streak of 29 unbeaten matches and they will be eager to bounce back and win their European Qualification Group over the coming months and they will no doubt be a force to be reckoned with in 12 months time.
5. Italy showing signs of rejuvenation
Italy have without question bounced back from their horrific performance at the 2010 World Cup. In their next tournament they stormed to the Euro 2012 final, finishing runners-up to Spain, before making it to the semi-finals of the Confederations Cup, where they were again outdone by Spain but only just, losing 7-6 in a high quality penalty shoot-out.
They have a decent mix of experience and youth, which will bode well for Brazil 2014. The Azzurri can never be underestimated and are a nation with pedigree when it comes to major tournaments and as such, the 20/1 currently on offer about Cesare Prandelli’s team winning the World Cup could look massive this time next year.