The Christ Redeemer statue might be the landmark of this beautiful country but what about football? Four teams come together in Group A- each representing a style of its own, a country’s beliefs and more than ever- an ever rising passion for the game.
Defending Champions Brazil, the Warriors from Japan, the Feared Italians and the Charming Mexicans will seek to prove to the whole world what Group A is like. From a much expectant crowd Brazil will draw inspiration from the fact that they’ve won this tourney several times more than any other team while the Mexicans- always alive like a ‘ring of fire’- a little geography lesson here- will seek to violently explode the Samba fields with breath-taking displays. Never wanting to right off Italy- the steel of the defence, the flare of the midfield and the sting of attack should make Europe proud. Most Japanese will find the Brazilian coffee exciting but not just that- the thought of the rising sun, their rising stars- now making inroads all over Europe- winning titles and now seeking to win it for motherland ‘Nippon’ and ‘Nihon’
The curtains are drawn, the dance is ready- spears out and the little Chihuahua joins us as superfoota.com brings to you an in-depth look into group A of the FIFA 2013 Confederations Cup;
Coach; Felipe Scolari
That name shouldn’t surprise many football fans- a former World Cup winner with this side. The big question would be, has he lost his Midas touch? Can Brazil believe again that the 2014 World Cup is going to Brazil to stay? A few critics here and there questioning his selection but as expected that’s the worry of every Samba coach- too much talent, so much hard work to come up with a decent playing unit.
Goalkeepers: Julio César (QPR), Jefferson (Botafogo) and Diego Cavalieri (Fluminense)
Cesar’s name shouldn’t really surprise in this list having in mind he’s been the consistent number one for the National team for close to half a decade now. With lots of experience across Europe, would be a safe bet to stand between the sticks. Currently plies his trade with recently relegated QPR but that should soon change as several top Clubs seek his signature. Jefferson and Diego have recently featured against Bolivia and Chile- not so much experience in between them but should gladly deputise Julio as they seek to further cement their positions in this squad.
Defenders: Daniel Alves (Barcelona), Jean (Fluminense), Marcelo (Real Madrid), Filipe Luis (Atlético Madrid) Thiago Silva (PSG), Réver (Atlético-MG), David Luiz (Chelsea) and Dante (Bayern Munich)
What do you get when you mix class, experience and hunger- I guess a perfect defensive line- but that hasn’t been so for Brazil in recent time with the team leaking goals at the back against Italy and recently England.
Marcelo, Alves, Luiz all seem to come from the school of thought that dictates the best way to defend is attack but at times against super-fast counters, expose the keeper bringing into question their defensive capabilities over offensive ones. But with Brazil expected to get much possession- shouldn’t be a shock to see a Brazilian goal from any of these defenders.
Midfielders: Fernando (Grêmio), Hernanes (Lazio), Luiz Gustavo (Bayern Munich), Paulinho (Corinthians), Jadson (São Paulo), Oscar (Chelsea) and Lucas Moura (PSG).
The greatest test for the Samba Machine might just be in this department. While so many question the dropping of Real Madrid’s Kaka and Ronaldinho- a blend of youth, creativity as Brazil seek to cement their position back to the football apex.
Luiz Gustavo, Lucas Moura and Oscar have had stellar seasons at their respective clubs. The Brazillian midfield though expects Oscar to provide that spark and drive forward which I guess he seems to get as time goes by. The perfect way then for these lads to ward off ‘noises’ asking the coach to bring back Kaka and Ronaldinho is how well they play this tournament.
Forwards: Hulk (Zenit), Bernard (Atlético-MG), Leandro Damião (Internacional), Fred (Fluminense) and Neymar (Barcelona).
Brazil’s forward group is its greatest strength and asset. Damião last summer’s Olympic magician should be primed for another breakout campaign. Hulk struggled in his first year in Russia, but he has been productive for Brazil in the past. A few eyes in Europe will be watching him and apart from the Russian big money- the size of the medal matters too. Still got something in him- should let it loose now! Neymar is the face of the team and now with even much greater responsibility- the ‘other’ face of Barcelona Football Club. I’m just never sure how much this pressure will turn out for him- but playing in-front of a home crowd should be a thorough boost for this frontline.
You’re just always sure of Brazil getting out of the group stages. Hoping they pick the tempo from the start- no disrespect to other teams. Nothing apart from position 1 or 2 stands in their way.
Coach; Jose Manuel de la Torre
For a coach who won his first title at 40 and unveiled to the National team head coach- a side he also represented in his early years- it’s a massive honour to grace the Confederations Cup. The 2011 CONCACAF not only introduced us to a master in the art but a genius in his tacts. Blessed to lead a team of profound talent is a blessing for one but to be able to blend them together and win during your first two years in a coaching job- is thoroughly commendable.
Goalkeepers: Guillermo Ochoa (Ajaccio), José de Jesús Corona (Cruz Azul), Alfredo Talavera (Toluca)
For those who watched the CONCACAF and watched Mexico play it- you would agree the goalkeeping position is one of the main reasons Mexico won the tournament. Corona not just in a name – but in actions saved the Mexicans. Ajaccio’s Ochoa heart can finally take a rest as his club confirmed safety but in case needed by Jose Manuel to step up when Corona is missing should be comfortable to do so. Alfredo Talavera- such a mouthful of a name- should wait for the party I guess.
Defenders: Francisco Javier Rodríguez (América), Carlos Salcido (UANL), Diego Reyes (América), Severo Meza (Monterrey), Héctor Moreno (Espanyol), Jorge Torres Nilo (UANL), Hiram Mier (Monterrey), Gerardo Flores (Cruz Azul)
Salcido and Moreno are names of some of my favourite WWE superstars but for the Mexican game- it’s more than that. The two are some of the senior members of that backline. Probably in their last or second last tournament should provide some decent leadership at the back and with the tournament pitting them against some of Europe’s best strikers- the younger lads will have to learn the ropes really fast.
Midfielders: Jesús Molina (América), Gerardo Torrado (Cruz Azul), Pablo Barrera (Cruz Azul), ángel Reyna (Pachuca), Javier Aquino (Villarreal), Héctor Herrera (Pachuca), Jesús Zavala (Monterrey), Andrés Guardado (Valencia)
On paper Mexico really seem to have a solid midfield in the names of Zavalla and Guardado but on the pitch that doesn’t seem to be so. Watching previous tourney’s featuring Mexico- the flare seems to have gone away and now more attackers are drawn back to help create the goals. Much motivation and assurance from the coach and players needs to be injected into this crop of players running the mid- but write them off not. On a good day- they’re able to pick their forwards for a killer goal.
Forwards; Javier Hernández (Manchester United), Aldo de Nigris (Monterrey), Giovani dos Santos (Mallorca), Raúl Jiménez (América)
Hernandez’s name stands out particularly for the obvious reasons but Nigris too deserves a special praise. Has come in through and scored some life-saving goals. The Dos Santos of pre-2010 seems to be lost nowadays and the confidence doesn’t exist anymore. By pulling off a little potential off Santos- the Mexican kids shall have gotten their late Christmas gift.
Did you know? Mexican Children don’t receive gifts on Christmas day- they receive them on January 6th- the day believed to be the day the three wise men arrived with gifts for Baby Jesus? Can Hernandes, Nigris & Dos Santos be wise enough to get the Mexican kids some gifts of goals?
I would be wrong in trying to exclude Mexico from position 2 but looking at the other sides- it’s hard to allow them be there. Position three maybe but coming in at 4th would be utterly disastrous.
Coach; Cesare Prandelli
I sometimes want to call him no-nonsense but his wide grin steals the words away. After that Euro display- going down to a classy Spanish side- the haters might just add in number but one thing stands out; the 55 year old has brought back the smiles to Italy.
The confederations Cup will be another chance for Italy to continue rebuilding even as they hope the 2010 World Cup ghosts would forever rest in the shores of Africa.
Goalkeepers: Buffon (Juventus), Marchetti (Lazio), Sirigu (Paris St. Germain)
No disrespect to Salvatore Sirigu or Federico Marchetti, both fine goalkeepers, but it’s hard to imagine anyone but Gigi being Italy’s man for the sticks. The Captain, the leader- he best demystifies the Italian Belief- the Italian pride. Bet on him to see it all.
Defenders: Abate (Milan), Astori (Cagliari), Barzagli (Juventus), Bonucci (Juventus), Chiellini (Juventus), De Sciglio (Milan), Maggio (Napoli)
Italy’s stronghold as I would love to say- once again will be the backbone of some must watch performances.
The thought that the Juventus trio of Giorgio Chiellini, Andrea Barzagli, and Leonardo Bonucci, allowed only two goals in Euro 2012 group play and in the Serie A allowed only 24 goals over a season scares the hell out of opponents. Balzaretti might have surprised many by working his way into the Italian defense during the 2012 Euro but the Confederations chop seems to have left him out. What does that then leave us with- a competition for a full back position? The contenders-Christian Maggio and perhaps even young Mattia De Sciglio.
Aquilani (Fiorentina), Candreva (Lazio), De Rossi (Roma), Diamanti (Bologna), Giaccherini (Juventus), Marchisio (Juventus), Montolivo (Milan), Pirlo (Juventus)
Nothing for any Azzuri fan is breath-taking than watching a Pirlo pass. An art he has mastered over the years has probably made him the first name in every Italian National Team first XI and the confederations shouldn’t just crown it- but hopefully introduce the Brazilian crowd to another scalpel with European Origin.
We aint gonna talk about Pirlo forever- but since you’re reading this. Let me introduce you to the other lads- headlined by Claudio Marchisio, Riccardo Montolivo and Daniele De Rossi. Aprt from Pirlo- whether dressed in a Roma shirt or an Italian Jersey- I doubt if there’s any other Italian who conducts Italian play like De-Rossi does. His unique set of skills and importance within the tactical framework are such that the team’s success is dictated in large measure by his execution and tenacity.
Balotelli (Milan), Cerci (Torino), El Shaarawy (Milan), Gilardino (Bologna), Giovinco (Juventus)
What more can you expect when you bring two youngsters with close to 30 goals between them- one title winning striker and one more whose got around 12 goals to his name? Not so little.
Balotelli’s discipline might be questioned by so many all around the world but as long as he bangs them in- do you have any reason to act God? Young, agile, fast and efficient- Italy’s front line is fast becoming their dependence and if the Euro’s was not anything- the confederations might just be.
This is too much quality which can shock anyone. Most of these players seem to have a point to prove and with some sections of the media labelling the Italian style of play ‘POOR’ the perfect reply would be leading this group. Had I said Brazil earlier on? Well- this is the other threat- wouldn’t mind them at any position between 1 & 2 because that’s where I believe they deserve to be.
Coach; Alberto Zaccheroni
Best known for winning a scudetto with AC Milan in 1999 and his tactical love for the 3-4-3 system, the proud winning coach of the 2011 AFC Asian Cup is also the first manager to see his side qualify for the 2014 World Cup. Time to sit back, relax, love Brazil and wait for next year’s championship but with the confederations cup here, maybe adding one more piece of silverware to his cabinet would be a beautiful idea.
Eiji Kawashima (Standard Liege), Shusaku Nishikawa (Sanfrecce Hiroshima), Shuichi Gonda (FC Tokyo).
I would probably go with Eiji Kawashima- 44 Caps and has taken part in a World Cup too; surely he’s got some good experience in him. One of the best keepers in the Belgian Pro-League. Nishikawa should be able to assist when needed but for Gonda who has just one Cap- time to learn the ropes from the big boys.
Yasuyuki Konno (Gamba Osaka), Yuzo Kurihara (Yokohama F Marinos), Masahiko Inoha (Jubilo Iwata), Yuto Nagatomo (Inter Milan), Atsuto Uchida (Schalke), Maya Yoshida (Southampton), Hiroki Sakai (Hannover), Gotoku Sakai (Stuttgart).
I seem to love watching Nagatamo at Inter Milan- seems to have a battery in him that never loses charge; can run for 90 plus minutes. An excellent fullback and fits well into Zaccheroni’s plans to promote him up field in the second half of play to send in crosses from the wing. Maya Yoshida having pulled around 29 caps for Southampton will seek to stamp his authority in this defence as Zaccheroni seeks to weed out a few old feet in the names of Konno and Kurihara.
Not so stable I must say- but good enough to challenge the world best strike forces.
Yasuhito Endo (Gamba), Kengo Nakamura (Kawasaki Frontale), Makoto Hasebe (Wolfsburg), Hajime Hosogai (Hertha Berlin), Keisuke Honda (CSKA Moscow), Hideto Takahashi (FC Tokyo).
Having 128 caps for Japan (the highest ever) says it all. He is a legend in himself and is probably the best adaptable midfielder Japan has ever had. He has featured 10 times consecutively in the J-league’s Best Eleven. He is sensational from set pieces with his remarkable accuracy in taking free kicks. Endo has formed a central spine in the squad. He also possesses a very high football IQ, starkly visible in his intelligent positioning. His presence is bound to inspire the rest of the squad.
Alongside him is Hasebe who many not view as world class- but the Bundesliga star has gor a right mix of positioning and marking abilities. Being the Captain too- he’s got smart leadership skills and should be another point of pivot.
Keisuke Honda seems to need no much introduction but the CSKA Moscow man will seek to partner Endo and Matoko as he seeks to add to his tally of 42 caps at a small age of just 26- turns 27 two days to the start of the tournament.
Ryoichi Maeda (Jubilo), Shinji Okazaki (Stuttgart), Mike Havenaar (Vitesse Arnhem), Takashi Inui (Eintracht Frankfurt), Shinji Kagawa (Manchester United), Hiroshi Kiyotake (Nuremburg)
Shinji Kagawa stands out in this frontline but you’ll be shocked to learn he’s not just earned so many caps for his country but even much more than Maeda who’s almost 6 years his senior. Okazaki will be the main man as Shinji loves playing slightly behind the striker. With a formation of 4-2-3-1 then it might be Shinji operating on the left of the pitch as Okazaki stands out at the front.
What I said about the other teams might come to haunt me coming to this but it’s unfortunate I don’t see Japan qualifying past the group stage. The sun might be rising on them but when the final whistle of the group stage is blown- it (the sun) might be literally going to the west. A third place finish would be commendable, a second place shocking- a first place, absolutely brilliant.
Check out the full preview of the 2013 Confederations Cup group B here
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