On Saturday 17th, two days from now, the Confederations Cup tournament will start in Russia, one year before Russia will host the real deal – the world Cup. Most of the players and coaches around the world, especially in Europe, don’t like this tournament after a long season, a tournament who is more of making money from tickets, TV rights etc, less important to the national teams and players.

But since it’s an official FIFA tournament, the national teams bring their main squads and the players also know that many scouts are watching them, maybe preparing their next contracts.

 

But this tournament is also a general rehearsal for the host country, Russia, to test the stadiums, facilities, transporting, security and more, for the major event which will take place in June 2018. And for us the football fans, give us tournaments in the break, all kind of tournament, national teams even better and we are good. So let’s take a sit back and enjoy some good football.

 

So what are we expected to see in Russia 2017? Mexico is the only national team among the eight national teams to won the cup in the past. It was back in 1999 when they beat Brazil 4-3. Mexico will play in group A with the host Russia, European champions, Portugal and Oceania champions, New Zealnad.

The other group will include CONMEBOL champions, Chile, the 2014 World cup champions, Germany, the 2017 CAF champions, Cameroon and Asia’s champions, Australia. Pretty even groups. Just remember that only two will advance to the semi final.

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Group A

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Russia will have to work much harder then everyone else. It’s always a big pressure when you are the host and everyone expect them to be the best or at least to arrive the final. But Russia is in a tough situation regarding the national team. It’s not the same strong team in the past. The team failed badly in the last world cup despite high hopes and also didn’t pass beyond group stage in Euro 2016. Coach Stanislav Cherchesov was hired in August 2016 to fix things up before the World Cup and now it’s a great chance to do it. Russia will miss important players like Alexander Kokorin, Alan Dzagoev, Roman Zobnin and Artyom Dzubya. The national will continue to count on veteran goalkeeper, Igor Akinfeev, midfielder Yuri Zhirkov and striker Fyodor Smolov.

Prediction: Semi final.

 

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Mexico is no doubt one of the toughest national teams in the world. The CONCACAF champion is also the only national team among the teams participated who also won the Confederations Cup. It happened in 1999 when they beat Brazil, World Cup runner-up back then, 4-3. Mexico is having a great run under Colombian head coach, Juan Carlos Osorio, but there is still criticism from the media. The reason? Osorio’s rotation system, where he usually doesn’t stick with regular lineup, but keeps making changes from match to match. Another reason is one of Osorio’s only two loses, which happened in the 2016 Copa America quarter final – a devastating 0-7 defeat against Chile, in a tournament where Mexico was among the favorites to win. But Mexico is on their way to the World Cup next Summer and this will be a great opportunity for the main squad to test itself, while the reserves will play the Gold cup few weeks later. Among the key players I can mention Mexico’s all-time leading scorer, Javier Hernandez, Sociedad’s forward, Carlos Vela and Pachuca’s wonder kid, Hirving Lozano; Two veterans like Rafa Marquez and Andres Guardado; The dos-Santos brothers, Gio and Jonathan; Marco Fabian and Roma’s new signing, Hector Moreno. Mexico has a very strong squad who is, for me, one of the main favorites to win.

Prediction: Final

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Mexico’s top scorer, Javier Hernandez, will look to lead ‘Tri’ for their 2nd Confederations title

 

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The Euro 2016 sensation who amazed Europe by winning host favorite France in the final and without Cristiano Ronaldo, will make it’s debut in the Confederations Cup. But it’s not so sure that we’ll see Portugal in Russia next year, since the team still have to improve in order to take the first place to the World Cup tournament. Most of the historic title of Portugal will be in Russia besides one noticeable absent – Eder, the substitute who gave Portugal the victory. He has been dropped by coach Santos. Other then that, mega superstar, Cristiano Ronaldo, is coming after a long and successful season with Real Madrid and if there’s hope for Portugal to win, it’s because of this guy who is in an amazing form. Beside Ronaldo, Portugal will have Joao Moutinho, Andre Gomes, veterans Quaresma and Nani, talented Bernardo Silva and new Milan’s signing, Andre Silva. A lot of potential in the squad, not sure if it’ll be enough vs. Mexico and the host nation.

Prediction: Group stage

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Another International title for Portugal and Ronaldo?

 

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Oceania champion will play their 4th Confederations Cup tournaments and obviously they are the clear underdogs in it. Despite being with almost 0 chance to qualify, coach Anthony Hudson believes in his squad’s abilities. “It is the best squad we have had since I have been here,” Hudson told nzfootball.com. “The best thing about this squad is we have a good blend of experience and youth. There is energy, quality, and hunger in this squad so I’m very pleased.” Veteran striker and top scorer, Shane Smeltz, return to the national team at the age of 35 and it’ll be interesting to see the combination between him and other veterans playing along young talents like Marco Rojas, Chris Woods and Ryan Thomas. Of course that it’ll be a miracle if New Zealand will take at least one point from either Portugal, Russia or Mexico, but I highly doubt that it’s going to happen.

Prediction: Group stage

 

Group B

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Germany will play in the Confederations Cup as the World Champion and it’ll be their 3rd appearance in the competition, still without winning it. Germany will be in Russia next year, they are first in their group with 100% and this tournament can be a great preparation for them, even though Germany will come with its second string squad, while only three members from the 2014 World Cup are included – Matthias Ginter, Julian Draxler and Shkodran Mustafi. Ter Stegen will be the goalkeeper who replace Neuer and some talented players that you can follow are Lars Stindl, Amin Younes, Diego Demme, and Sandro Wagner, who claimed a hat trick against San Marino on his competitive debut last Saturday.

Prediction: Semifinal

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Ter-Stegen. Germany will play without their main squad

 

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The new refreshing from South America is Chile, two-times champion in a row which gave them the debut in the Confederations Cup. Chile didn’t have the best time during the qualifiers, but right now when we are 4 matches left to the end, they have great chances to take the ticket to Russia. Chile will come with their full squad and will try to achieve another title. The fact that Germany will come with their mainly B squad, makes me gamble on Chile in this tournament. Alexis Sanchez will lead the attack with Eduardo Vargas while in midfield we have Bayern’s Arturo Vidal and Charles Aranguiz. Defense will be led by Medel and Jara while captain Claudio Bravo.

Prediction: Wins the tournament

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Looking for third International title in a row, Chile and Alexis Sanchez

 

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Cameroon surprised everyone on February 2017 when they won the African championship and return to the Confederations Cup. They return to the tournament 14 years after their last appearances which ended up in 2nd place but also in a huge tragedy, when Marc Vivien Foe collapsed and died during the semi final match vs. Colombia. A tragedy which left the whole world in shock. Now Cameroon is a more modest national team, despite winning the African title. The team under Hugo Broos didn’t impress in their last friendlies and doesn’t seem like a national team to cause problems to either Chile or Germany, or even Australia. Christian Bassogog was their best player in Africa cup and he’ll lead the attack with Aboubakar. But as I mention, I don’t think Cameoon will even finish 3rd.

Prediction: Group stage

 

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Asian champion will make their first appearance as Asia represent, because in their previous appearances they represented Oceania. They still fight for their place in Russia next year, they are currently in the playoff spot but there are still two games left and only one point behind leader Japan. They won’t be able to do a lot in this group in my opinion and most likely to fight with Cameroon over the 3rd place. Veteran Tim Cahill is the only survivor from Australia’s last Confederations appearance in 2005. Aaron Mooy from Manchester City and Tom Rogic from Celtic are also among the leading players.

Prediction: Group stage