June 26, 2013 by jstevenson0804
The 2013 Confederations Cup has proven to be a real footballing success. Off-the-field protests have marred the contests, but on the field, there has been some scintillating action. Here is our review of the group stages and a look ahead to the semi-finals.
Hosts Brazil have not disappointed home ambitions. Right from the off the Selecao has looked up for the fight. They started with a comfortable 3-0 victory against Japan with Neymar lighting up the tournament with a stunning half volley within five minutes. Although Japan never really troubled in this match the Brazilians continued to impress with a relatively straightforward 2-0 win against Mexico. It was in their final game where they their hardest test. Italy provided a much more difficult challenge but in one of the competition’s many exciting matches, Brazil came through with a 4-2 win. Neymar added to his tally with another excellent goal and has proven to be Brazil’s star man so far. He will hope to continue this form against continental rivals Uruguay in tonight’s semi-final, where the Selecao will hope to fend off their neighbours.
In spite of the 4-2 defeat to Brazil, Italy easily secured their place in the semi-finals with wins against both Mexico and Japan. Andrea Pirlo’s superb free kick help set the Azzurri on their way against Mexico before a thrilling encounter with Japan ended in a 4-3 win. Having fallen 2-0 behind early on the Italians struck back to take the vital three points. In the end, Brazil proved to have too much, or rather too much for the golden gloves of Buffon to handle. With the ageing keeper’s hands losing some of their magic this will be a concern ahead of the semi against Spain. Not only this, but losing Balotelli will dent their chances of making the final and gaining revenge for the Euro 2012 defeat.
Third in the group was Mexico who gained their only points in a final round win against Japan. Defeats against Italy and Brazil had already ended their chances but they had a good showing against the AFC champions. Manchester United striker Javier Hernandez added to his impeccable goal tally with what proved to be the crucial goals. In truth they were always unlikely to progress from this group and with the recent struggles in World Cup qualifying, it was more important to put in some good performances rather than focus too much on winning the tournament.
Japan can feel somewhat aggrieved to have come away from the tournament with no points. After a fairly timid start against Brazil they really shone brightly against the Italians and were unfortunate to lose that match. Star duo Keisuke Honda and Shinji Kagawa both put in great performances and at least enhanced their reputations; Honda now has been linked with a move to AC Milan. In the final game against Mexico, again the Japanese were unlucky not to get a point but they again showed some potential for the World Cup next year and with a little more luck and star striker Maeda fully fit, who knows, they may cause an upset or two.
Any doubts about Spain’s goal-scoring prowess have well and truly been dismissed. Against the Uruguayans it was a typical display of possession domination and they thoroughly controlled the match until late on when Suarez bagged himself a superb goal. Confidence was running so high that they could effectively play a second string team, of mostly Premier League stars, that eased to a 10-0 win against Tahiti. Although the result was expected it was good to see both Torres and Villa score hat-ricks as they aim to rebuild their international reputations. Finally, against Nigeria they again earned a comfortable 3-0 win with left back Jordi Alba getting in on the action and bagging himself a brace to end the group as winners. Once more going up against Italy in the semis they should have enough firepower to see off the Azzurri and we could well see another drubbing like last time.
Uruguay dispelled fears over their World Cup qualifying form to seal their place in the semi-finals. Although outplayed, they came away from the Spain match only one goal down and could almost have stolen a point from that. In the crucial game against Nigeria, Uruguay managed to get the vital three points to see them through thanks to a goal from national legend Diego Forlan. In their final game the key players were rested as Abel Hernandez managed a four-goal haul against Tahiti. In summary they have had some good results but probably will fall short against a so-far impressive Brazil team.
Nigeria never really showed a great deal in the tournament and as a consequence fell short in search of a semi-final spot. They opened with a rather unimpressive 6-1 victory against Tahiti. In truth at least three of those goals were gifts for the Nigerians and most of the game was played at a very slow pace with Nigeria lacking any real desire to play the game. In the big clash against Uruguay, the statistics will show that Nigeria dominated that game but they didn’t convert their chances and so barring a win against Spain knew they were out. In the end Spain dispatched of them fairly easily. However, one bright spark for the Super Eagles was the excellent performances of CSKA Moscow attacker Ahmed Musa who used his pace and trickery to threaten all of his opponents.
Lastly, Tahiti. No one expected anything but the high-point of the tournament was undoubtedly Jonathan Tehau’s shock goal. They lost the match 6-1 but their goal will be the most remembered moment of the game. Against Spain they were truly outclassed but at least they made an effort. Whereas most minnows tend to sit deep and hope to keep everything at bay, the Tahitians were not shy in coming forward. Happy to launch counter-attacks they showed a great amount of spirit and passion for the game. Star players Vahirua and Chong Hue were able to demonstrate their abilities and we may see them get a transfer, but even if not, it was a great experience for the team and added an extra dimension to the competition.
Now we are down to the final four…In the first semi-final hosts Brazil will look to continue their impressive run on home soil. If they can continue the performances of the group stage they should easily see off the Uruguayan threat, who have so far not proved to be too much of a threat. Late pressure against Spain proved fruitless and will rely on the attacking players to help see them into the final.
Spain’s form has been as solid as ever and will start as favourites against an Italy side missing Balotelli through injury and suffering from possible goalkeeper troubles. Buffon’s form against Brazil may be just a blip but if it is repeated, Spain will surely pounce. Added to that that 20 year old El Shaarawy will be the main attacking threat for Italy, Spain will expect to be able to handle him without too much difficulty.
Whatever the outcome, both games look set to be full of excitement and hopefully some more cracking goals to end the tournament on a high note…so far we have not been disappointed…