Five Things To Look Out For At FIFA Confederations Cup
There is still a year to go until a ball is kicked in anger at the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia, but the competition’s official warm-up event is already upon us.
Over the next 17 days, the holders of FIFA’s six continental championships, plus the World Cup holders and the host nation, will compete in international football’s tournament of champions.
Since its inception in 1997, the Confederations Cup has been won four times by Brazil, twice by France and once by Mexico.
Despite its status as a World Cup dress rehearsal, no previous Confederations Cup holders have gone on to win the World Cup the following year.
Five things to look out for during the June 17-July 2 event, which will be played in Moscow, Saint Petersburg, Kazan and Sochi.
5 MOTIVATED RONALDO
That would leave him level with his great rival Lionel Messi with five FIFA player of the year accolades (called the FIFA Ballon d’Or from from 2010 to 2015).
The former Manchester United forward has reinvented himself in recent seasons: his once trademark speed and athleticism being replaced by savvy positioning and clinical finishing.
Despite being just seven months shy of his 33rd birthday, Ronaldo is not far off the best form of his career.
Last month he led Real Madrid to their third UEFA Champions League title in four years, capping off a season in which he scored 42 goals in 46 matches across all competitions for the Spanish giants.
4 IMPROVED RUSSIA
But a silver lining has appeared on the horizon with a 3-0 victory over Hungary and a 1-1 draw with Copa America champions Chile earlier this month.
Stanislav Cherchesov’s team will be without striker Artem Dzyuba, playmaker Alan Dzagoev and midfielder Roman Zobnin here due to injury.
But in emerging talents such as midfield pair Aleksandr Golovin and Aleksei Miranchuk, who are both 21, Cherchesov has good reason to believe his team can cover those losses.
Russia will be further boosted by the country’s fervent fans, who are likely to make their match venues a cauldron of noise for opposing teams.
3 DOWN-UNDER SPIRIT
Australia are unbeaten in their past eight World Cup qualifiers and showed by winning the Asian Cup final in 2015 that they can perform on the biggest of stages.
Their squad includes talented Celtic midfielder Tom Rogic, Hertha BSC forward Mathew Leckie and Manchester City’s Aaron Mooy, who helped Huddersfield Town earn promotion to the Premier League during a loan spell last season.
Thirty-seven year-old former Everton midfielder Tim Cahill is also a part of the Socceroos squad and will be keen to preserve his fine record in major tournaments.
Likewise, Australia’s trans-Tasman Sea rivals New Zealand should not be discounted as easy beats. The Oceania champions drew 1-1 with the United States in Washington last October, and their squad includes players of the ilk of West Ham defender Winston Reid and Leeds United striker Chris Wood.
2 DRAXLER ON THE RISE
Among those who will be watched closely is Paris Saint-Germain winger Julian Draxler, who has been named Germany’s captain for the tournament.
A bit-part player for Germany at the 2014 World Cup, Draxler has become a regular in Low’s starting lineup and he can confirm his name in the coach’s World Cup plans if he lives up to expectations here.
Other players that Low will be observing closely include Timo Werner, Emre Can, Joshua Kimmich and Shkodran Mustafi.
1 HOT CHILE
Juan Antonio Pizzi’s team boasts what is arguably the tournament’s most impressive squad on paper. Arsenal forward Alexis Sanchez will again lead his team’s attack while Bayern Munich’s Arturo Vidal will pull the team’s strings in midfield alongside Pablo Hernandez (Celta Vigo) and Charles Aranguiz (Bayer Leverkusen). In goal will be Manchester City’s Claudio Bravo.
After a slow start to their 2018 World Cup qualifying campaign, Chile have climbed to fourth in the South American zone standings, within the automatic qualification places.