With the 2013 edition of FIFA's World Cup warm-up tournament kicking off in Brazil this weekend, here's what US Soccer Players thinks you need to know about the 2013 Confederations Cup.
Why Are We Here?
The Confederations Cup is a relatively new invention for FIFA, dating to 2005 in its current format. Its prior history links it to the King Fahd Cup, a 1990s competition hosted by Saudi Arabia but not the same scope as the current tournament. What most resembles the current Confederations Cup in timing was the 1993 US Cup and the 1997 Turnoi de France. Both of those tournaments served as tests for the stadiums in use the next summer for the World Cup. In terms of participation, the first official Confederations Cup kicked off in the summer of 1997 with similar standards to the current tournament.
And Who Plays?
In broadest terms, Confederation champions and the defending World Cup winner. Since the international calendar doesn't lock in Confederation championships in a standardized format, that means countries that won over a few years. In the '97 edition, Uruguay qualified by winning the 1995 Copa America. The rest of the Confederation championships occurred a year later. In 2013, Uruguay qualifies again by winning the 2011 Copa America. Mexico joins them as the 2011 Gold Cup winner, with CONCACAF using a biannual Confederation championship. Nigeria represents Africa after winning the Cup of Nations a few months ago. Also in the tournament is the host country.
So What Happens If A Team Wins The World Cup And Their Confederations Cup?
You mean Spain in this summer's tournament? They qualify as the World Cup winner and the Confederation championship runners-up (in this case Italy) take the Confederations place. The Confederations Cup always puts a representative in the tournament. If a team declines, and that's happened a few times, FIFA invites a runner-up or previous champion. That complicated the 1999 tournament, with France saying non, merci to participating as the defending World Cup winner. Brazil replaced them as '98 World Cup runners-up but Brazil also won the 1997 Copa America so were already participating. That moved Bolivia into the Copa America slot as that tournament's runners-up. FIFA normally finds a way.
And It Switched To Every Four Years?
Yes, from 1997 when it became the FIFA Confederations Cup up until the 2005 tournament it was every two years. The 2001 tournament was the first time FIFA used the tournament as a warm-up for the World Cup hosts, with joint hosts South Korea and Japan also hosting the '01 Confederations Cup. In 2005, it was Germany's turn. With the switch to the four-year cycle, South Africa hosted the 2009 tournament. If you're wondering how FIFA set the field for the 01 tournament with co-hosts, Japan made it easy on them by winning the 2000 Asian Cup.
How Tough Is The Confederations Cup?
Of the six Confederations Cups, Brazil has three trophies, France two, and Mexico one. Brazil won the 2005 and '09 tournaments, and enter 2013 as favorites regardless of what their FIFA ranking might lead you to believe. This tournament isn't held in the same esteem as the qualifying tournaments, also known as the confederation championships. The Copa America and the European Cup are bigger deals. The Confederations Cup occupies an interesting status in FIFA, more important than the Club World Cup, but still an attempt to stretch the FIFA calendar in a way that some countries and regions don't fully appreciate. Remember, we're only a decade or so removed from serious talk of a biannual World Cup, and the Confederations Cup is from that era.
With The USA Not Involved, Who Should I Look Out For?
As FIFA intended, this is a tournament all about the biggest names in world soccer. The opening group stage gives us Brazil - Italy in a game that counts on June 22nd and Mexico against Italy on June 16th and Brazil two days later. Though the United States was nice enough to rework the script four years ago in South Africa, the expectation is a Brazil - Spain final in Rio on June 30th. Short of supporting one of the other teams, who doesn't want to see that? ESPN has the English-language broadcast rights to the tournament in the United States. It's available on Univision in Spanish.