FIFA Confederations Cup, Russia 2017
The Confederations Cup is played the year before the World Cup in the host country, as an event where each world and Confederation champion face off.
Who is competing?
Australia – 2015 AFC Asian Cup Champions (Asia).
Chile – 2015 Copa America winners (South America).
Germany – 2014 FIFA World Cup Champions.
Mexico – 2015 CONCACAF Gold Cup winners (Central America).
New Zealand – 2016 OFC Nations Cup winners (Oceania).
Portugal – EURO 2016 winners (Europe).
Russia – Host Nation.
Cameroon – Winner of African Cup of Nations.
Group 1 features Mexico, New Zealand, Portugal and hosts, Russia.
Russia (World No.63): The team has less to brag about. A group-stage exit at last year’s European Championship saw Russia remembered more for fan disorder than its slow and predictable style of play.
Key Players: Veteran defenders Vasily Berezutsky and Sergei Ignashevich have both departed, but their younger replacements have yet to make their mark. Fyodor Smolov is the main attacking threat, while fellow forward Alexander Kokorin wasn’t selected. Injuries have depleted the squad, with midfielders Alan Dzagoev and Roman Zobnin missing out, along with forward Artyom Dzyuba.
Portugal (8): Most of the players who helped Portugal win its first major title at Euro 2016 will be back for its Confederations Cup debut. It’s less certain if Portugal will return to Russia for the World Cup. Portugal is second in its qualifying group and only the winner automatically makes the World Cup.
Key Players: Cristiano Ronaldo will join up late with the squad as he rests following Real Madrid’s Champions League success. One noticeable absentee in Russia will be Portugal’s Euro 2016 match-winner Eder, who has been dropped.
Group 2 features Australia, Cameroon, Germany, Chile.
Germany (3): With six wins out of six in qualifying, Germany is on a smooth path to Russia to mount its World Cup title defense. The Confederations Cup is being used as an opportunity to give untested players more tournament experience.
Key Players: Only three World Cup winners are included in Germany’s Confederations Cup squad - Matthias Ginter, Julian Draxler and Shkodran Mustafi - as established team members are given a break. Watch out for the newcomers: Lars Stindl, Amin Younes, Diego Demme, and Sandro Wagner, who claimed a hat trick against San Marino on his competitive debut last Saturday.
Cameroon (32): A squad missing many top Europe-based players defied doubters to win the country’s first African title in 15 years in February. It recovered some pride for a team that had become accustomed recently to chaos and failure at major tournaments.
Key Players: The speedy and skillful 21-year-old winger Christian Bassogog has emerged as Cameroon’s brightest star and its most creative attacker. He was so good he was rewarded with the player of the tournament award at the African Cup of Nations.
Germany’s changes give Chile a chance of topping Group B but there is a much stronger argument to be made for Portugal leaving Russia with the trophy.
Both Germany and Chile can be expected to make it out of Group B. Australia are a long way short of the pair’s quality and Cameroon will be pleased just to make it to the tournament after internal wrangles put their place in doubt.
A surprise is always possible with the main focus for each nation on next summer but everything points to Portugal as the most settled and consistent of the eight contenders going for glory.