What Do You Think Of The Show So Far? - Condederations Cup Diary
25 June 2013 12:55
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Having previously dismissed the Confederations Cup as a meaningless competition, I have to admit to being pleasantly surprised by the quality of the fitba on show. Maybe this is due to the absence of real pressure on the competing nations, although I'm convinced heads would have rolled if Brazil had failed to progress and Luiz Felipe Scolari's neck could still be on the block if they don't make it to the final. The favourite phrase from the experts/dumbos (delete where applicable) in the TV studios has been that both Brazil and Italy are 'works in progress'. Having been fascinated by Brazilian football throughout my years on this planet, I've found that their team is always a 'work in progress', the football public are never content with what they have, they are always looking for something better, that little bit extra which sets their national team apart from the rest. Coming through Group A with three straight wins is no more than was expected of them and, although everyone is comparing them unfavourably with Spain, I don't think there is too much between the teams. Sure, when Spain get the ball, it is hard to get it back but Brazil aren't exactly guilty of squandering possession. Neymar looks the part, while Sergio Ramos and Pique are hardly in the first flush of youth, so I certainly won't be betting against the hosts. And while everyone is talking about a Brazil v Spain final as if it is a formality, the noises coming out of the Italian camp clearly indicate that they aren't burdened by any inferiority complex. The 4-2 defeat from Brazil was a bit of a blow but they did enough in the game to claim to have deserved better. Bruised egos from their 4-0 defeat in the Euro2012 final will see to it that this week's meeting is a tasty one. In view of their recent record against Brazil, Mexico would have fancied themselves to qualify from Group A but their 2-1 defeat from Italy left them playing catch-up and, while they did cause the host nation some problems and were just a goal behind going into the closing stages, the dice was always loaded against them. Neymar's brilliance was all that stood between the sides and that could be a recurring theme in this Confederations Cup and again in the World Cup next summer. The Mexicans, just like Japan, will return to Brazil for the big one confident of making some impact. The Japs seldom troubled Brazil but they can justifiably claim to have been unfortunate to lose to both Italy and Mexico and, with a better rub of the green, could still be in the competition. It was always going to be Spain and A.N.Other who emerged from Group B. Without ever setting the heather on fire, Vicente del Bosque's multi-title holders were head and shoulders above the rest and, despite Italian declarations to the contrary, the scene is set for their glamour clash with Brazil in the final. The 'work in progress' tag certainly doesn't apply to Spain, they are the finished article and their play is always very easy on the eye. Uruguay have been an infuriating lot to watch. We all know they have top men in the shape of Luiz Suarez, Edinson Cavani and Diego Forlan but they appear to be intent on only working up a sweat on a notional basis. If they'd lost 4-0 or 5-0 to Spain, they could have had no complaints and they did little to impress against Nigeria. Obviously, so much is resting on the Cavani-Suarez partnership clicking but, although Suarez has got three goals to his credit, he has only been marginally better than Napoli's main man who looks like he would much rather be off somewhere discussing the terms of his forthcoming big money move. Abel Hernandez's four goal performance against Tahiti may have given coach Oscar Tabarez something to think about. As appears to be the norm for them, Nigeria arrived in Brazil on the back of a fall-out between the squad and the FA over unpaid bonuses and an ongoing dispute about future payments, yet Stephen Keshi's team hasn't let the nation down. Their young squad surprised everyone by winning the African Cup Of Nations and they will be a threat next year if Keshi can get the Nigerian FA back onside and succeed in holding the squad together. What can be said about Tahiti? The arrived as no-hopers, they suffered three straight defeats but they left with the respect of all their competing rivals and the memory of three standing ovations from the Brazilian crowds will sustain each and every one of their entourage for a long time to come. Tomorrow's semi-final is fairly easy to call. Brazil should have no problem seeing off Uruguay but Thursday night's Spain v Italy clash will be fascinating. It is hard to see past the Spaniards but I'm certain it will be a very tight affair with maybe just a flash of genius settling the issue. Will it be from Xavi, Iniesta or Torres.or from Balotelli or Pirlo? It will be well worth seeing.