Saturday, June 6, 2009

South Africa 2009: Confederations Cup Preview

The FIFA Confederations Cup is a tournament for national teams, currently held every four years by FIFA. It is contested by the winners of each of the six FIFA confederation championships (CAF, CONMEBOL, UEFA, AFC, OFC, CONCACAF), along with the FIFA World Cup winner and the host country.

This year, the Confed Cup will be held in South Africa - sort of a sneak preview of what's to come in the soon approaching 2010 World Cup Finals. This tournament will start on June 14th and end with the final on June 28th 2009.

Group A
Spain (UEFA European champions)
Coach: Vicente Del Bosque
Goalkeepers: Iker Casillas, Jose Reina, Diego Lopez
Defenders: Raul Albiol, Alvaro Arbeloa, Joan Capdevila, Carlos Marchena, Gerard Pique, Carles Puyol, Sergio Ramos
Midfielders: Xabi Alonso, Sergi Busquets, Santi Cazorla, Cesc Fabregas, Xavi, Pablo Hernandez, David Silva, Juan Manuel Mata, Albert Riera
Forwards: Daniel Guiza, Fernando Llorente, Fernando Torres, David Villa

Probable starting formation
(GK) Casillas — (D) Ramos, Pique, Marchena, Capdevila — (M) Alonso, Silva, Xavi, Fabregas — (F) Torres, Villa

Current FIFA Ranking: 1

Spain has strength, quality and depth in their squad. Virtually any player in the 23-man squad can be thrust into the team and will do well. Del Bosque has enough quality in this squad to field two similar strength teams. The confidence of this squad is well high right now having won the European championships. It is a team that has played together for two years now and so the players know each other's game very well.

No glaring weaknesses. A hint of the Arsenal about Spain i.e. because they are so good, there is that tendency to want to walk the ball into the net. Midfield is lightweight so opposition may want to stop the Spanish midfield by deploying a spoiler's game in the middle of the park.

Player to Watch: Xavi, Cesc Fabregas

Tournament Prospects:
Vicente Del Bosque and Spain have not lost a match since the 2008 European championships. Del Bosque have already stated that "we are here to win" and the confidence is sky high. An easy group A means that Spain will top this group and will face either Brazil or Italy in the semifinal. Spain will be favourites to win this tournament.

The Fans:

Iraq (AFC Asian champions)
Coach: Bora Milutinovic
Goalkeepers: Mohammed Kasid, Nour Sabri, Uday Talib
Defenders: Basim Abbas, Muayad Khalid, Isam Yaseen, Samir Saeed, Farid Majeed, Salam Shaker, Ali Hussein Rahema, Mohammed Ali Karim, Dara Mohammed Habeeb
Midfielders: Halgurd Mulla Mohammed, Mahdi Karim, Nashat Akram, Hawar Mulla Mohammed, Abdul-Wahab Abu Al-Hail, Salih Sadir
Forwards: Karrar Jassim, Emad Mohammed, Alaa Abdul-Zahra, Younis Mahmoud, Luai Salah

Current FIFA Ranking: 77

Although relatively inexperienced in the international arena, this Iraq team makes up for it through the experience of their Serbian coach. The core of this team have remained the same since they won the Asian Youth championship. As with Spain, these players are very familiar with the way each other like to play. Iraq plays well when the trio of Nashat Akram, Younis Mahmoud and Emad Mohammad combine well.

They may have won the 2007 Asian Nations Cup but they will not be representing Asia in the 2010 World Cup. The confidence is not high, they have not performed well since that unexpected Asian Nation Cup win in Malaysia.

Player to Watch: Nashat Akram

Tournament Prospects:
Cannon fodder for the Spanish Machine, may beat South Africa and will get 3 points against New Zealand.

The Fans:

New Zealand (OFC Oceania champions)
Coach: Ricki Herbert
Goalkeepers: James Bannatyne, Glen Moss, Mark Pasto
Defenders: Andrew Boyens, Tony Lochhead, David Mulligan, Steven Old, Aaron Scott, Ben Sigmund, Ivan Vicelich
Midfielders: Andy Barron, Leo Bertos, Tim Brown, Jeremy Christie, Simon Elliott, Chris James, Duncan Oughton
Forwards: Kris Bright, Jeremy Brockie, Chris Killen, Shane Smeltz, Jarrod Smith, Chris Wood

Probable starting formation:
(GK) Paston — (D) Mulligan, Lochhead, Old, Sigmund — (M) Elliott, Oughton, Brown, James — (F) Smeltz, Killen

Current FIFA Ranking: 82

The strike partnership of Chris Killen and Shane Smeltz have produced 25 goals for the national team. The duo are arguably the two best players in this Kiwi side. They will be looked upon to drive the team forward in this competition.

New Zealand lack world class players and so will look to build on team experience here. They will use this tournament to prepare for the World Cup play-off with the fifth best Asian nation. The loss of the excellent Ryan Nelsen will not help the Kiwi's cause or hopes.

Player to Watch: Shane Smeltz, Leo Bertos

Tournament Prospects:
No chance and no points in this tournament.

The Fans:

South Africa (Host country)

Coach: Joel Santana
Goalkeepers: Brian Baloyi, Itumeleng Khune, Rowen Fernandez
Defenders: Matthew Booth, Siboniso Gaxa, Morgan Gould, Tsepo Masilela, Aaron Mokoena, Bryce Moon, Bongani Khumalo
Midfielders: Lance Davids, Kagisho Dikgacoi, Teko Modise, Steven Pienaar, Macbeth Sibaya, Siphiwe Tshabalala, Benson Mhlongo, Elrio van Heerden, Innocent Mdledle
Strikers: Bernard Parker, Katlego Mphela, Thembinkosi Fanteni, Katlego Mashego

Probable starting formation:
(GK) Baloyi - (D) Masilela , Moon, Booth, Gaxa - (M) Modise, Mokoena, Pienaar, Sibaya - (F) Mashego, Mphela

Current FIFA Ranking: 72

South Africa will have home ground advantage for this tournament. The fans will definitely get behind the team and spur them on. The team can rely on Steven Pienaar's industry and hard running in midfield, giving them a creative outlet. Aaron Mokoena provides protection for the back four by breaking up opposition plays in midfield with his tough tackling and physical style.

Not recalling Benni McCarthy leaves the South Africans short of attacking options. There is no recognised striker within the team squad. Goals may be hard to come by.

Player to Watch: Steven Pienaar

Tournament Prospects:
Being in the easier group A will surely help the Bafana Bafana. Joel Santana will want to use this tournament to prepare and assess his squad's capability for the 2010 World Cup. The team has the quality to beat New Zealand and Iraq to finish second and qualify for the semifinals. That's when the journey ends for South Africa. Unless witchcraft is used....

The Fans:

Group B
Brazil (CONMEBOL South American champions)
Coach: Carlos Dunga
Goalkeepers: Julio Cesar, Victor, Heurelho Gomes
Defenders: Maicon, Daniel Alves, Alex, Juan, Lucio, Luisao, Kleber, Andre Santos
idfielders: Anderson, Gilberto Silva, Josue, Ramires, Elano, Felipe Melo, Julio Baptista, Kaka
Forwards: Alexandre Pato, Luis Fabiano, Nilmar, Robinho

Probable starting formation:
(GK) Cesar — (D) Maicon, Juan, Lucio, Alves — (M) Kaka, Silva, Baptisa, Elano — (F) Pato, Robinho

Current FIFA Ranking: 5

A squad which has quality, strength, skill and depth. Like Del Bosque, Dunga has a squad in which he could field two teams capable of winning the Confederations Cup. That's the level of strength that Brazil possesses. For once, goalkeeping is no longer a weakness with the formidable Julio Cesar in goal. Defence is solid and physical. The team is packed with creativity and flair both in midfield and in attack. A magical team.

Overconfidence is a worry for Brazil. No doubt, they can beat anyone on paper but it's about getting it done on the pitch as well.

Player to Watch: Alexandre Pato

Tournament Prospects:
Need to fight it out with Italy for the group B leadership. Semifinalist for sure but may not be able to beat the Spaniards. Losing finalists this time around. At least the fans will enjoy a dream final - Brazil vs. Spain.

The Fans:

Italy (World champions)
Coach: Marcello Lippi
Goalkeepers: Amelia, Buffon, De Sanctis
Defenders: Cannavaro, Chiellini, Zambrotta, Dossena, Legrottaglie, Gamberini, Grosso, Santon
Midfielders: Camoranesi, De Rossi, Pirlo, Gattuso, Montolivo, Palombo
Forwards: Gilardino, Iaquinta, Pepe, Quagliarella, Toni, Rossi

Probable starting formation:
(GK) Buffon — (D) Cannavaro, Chiellini, Zambrotta, Grosso — (M) Camoranesi, De Rossi, Pirlo — (F) Quagliarella, Toni, Gilardino

Current FIFA Ranking: 4

An Italian squad filled with experience and world class talent. This team know how to shut out a team, stifle an opposition's creativity and win a game the Catenacchio style. Strong at the back, creative and tough to get past in midfield and sharpness in attack. All these are hallmarks of a tactically well organised Italian side.

Lippi takes with him an aging squad for this competition. A better option for him was to inject some youthfulness into the team. Athleticism and mobility are areas lacking in this Italian squad.

Player to Watch: Giorgio Chiellini

Tournament Prospects:
A first-time semifinal appearance for the Italians in South Africa. Will have to negotiate past the unpredictability of Egypt and the athleticism of USA.

The Fans:

USA (CONCACAF North American champions)
Coach: Bob Bradley
Goalkeepers: Tim Howard, Brad Guzan, Luis Robles
Defenders: Carlos Bocanegra, Oguchi Onyewu, Jonathan Spector, Jonathan Bornstein, Marvell Wynne, Jay DeMerit, Danny Califf, Heath Pearce
Midfielders: Michael Bradley, Clint Dempsey, Sacha Kljestan, Jose Francisco Torres, Benny Feilhaber, Ricardo Clark, DaMarcus Beasley, Freddy Adu
Forwards: Landon Donovan, Jozy Altidore, Conor Casey, Charlie Davies

Probable starting formation:
(GK) Howard — (D) Hejduk, Bocanegra, Onyewu, Pearce — (M) Bradley, Beasley, Kljestan, Dempsey — (F) Ching, Donovan

Current FIFA Ranking: 14

Bob Bradley have forged a team with defensive solidity marshalled by the excellent Tim Howard in goal. Midfield will be infused with discipline and positional responsibilities. Freddie Adu's brilliance on the ball can make a difference in tight matches. Athleticism, stamina and endurance are the key qualities of this USA team.

This is a USA team that will work hard and chase every ball. Unfortunately at the highest level of international football, a creative spark is required. The Americans do not have this creative or unpredictability element in their ranks.

Player to Watch: Clint Dempsey, Michael Bradley

Tournament Prospects:
USA should not be expected to shake up the competition. They have traditionally performed well in the Confed Cup but this will not be the same. Third placing in the group could be a possibility.

The Fans:

Eqypt (CAF African champions)
Coach: Hassan Shehata
Goalkeepers: Essam Al Hadari, Abdul Wahed Al Sayed Mohamed Sobhi, Al Hani Soliman
Defenders: Hani Said, Mahmoud Fathallah, Wael Gomaa, Sherif Abdul Fadhil, Ahmed Said, Ahmed Al Muhammadi, Sayed Moawad, Hazem Emam, Ahmed Samir Farag
Ahmed Fathi, Mohamed Shawki, Hosni Abd Rabu, Ahmed Khairy, Mohamed Soliman, Abdul Aziz Tawfiq, Ahmed Hassan, Mohamed Aboutrika
Forwards: Ahmed Eid, Mohamed Zidan, Mohamed Abougreisha, Ahmed Abdul Ghani, Ahmed Raouf, Ihab Al Masri, Amr Zaki

Probable starting formation
(GK) Al Hadari - (D) Al Muhammadi, Moawad, Said, Gomaa - (M) Fathi, Hassan, Shawki, Aboutrika - (F) Zaki, Zidan

Current FIFA Ranking: 40

A very talented Egyptian side combining youth and experience. The Egyptians are familiar with this tournament and will have the desire to prove that they are more than just confederations winners. There are a number of European-based Egyptians in this squad, they will be expected to use their big-game experience to inspire the team.

Due to behavioural problems, Mido was omitted from this squad. Egypt's attack is greatly diminished without Mido. Amr Zaki will be asked to shoulder a lot more responsibility which may reduce his goal scoring abilities.

Player to Watch: Mohamed Zidan

Tournament Prospects:
Unpredictable. A giant in African football but hardly produce the goods on the world stage. Will be challenging for the group third placing with USA.

The Fans:

TheFlatBackFour prediction:
Winner: Spain
Runners-up: Brazil
Third Place: Italy
Semifinalist: South Africa


Anonymous said...

Wow! You sound so sure that Spain will win and that Brazil are going to be a losing finalists! Overconfidence is a worry for Brazil! Are you sure! I think Spain and you should be the one wary of being overconfident!
May the best team win!

TheFlatBackFour said...

Isn't it exciting? Yes, may the best team win, and yes Spain will do it as they have that winning feeling right now.

kerin said...

so huge fan is cheering about their pride.

Free Satellite TV

Anonymous said...

good analysis

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