Please welcome sports contributor Jason Gordon –
The FIFA Confederations Cup is a prestigious soccer tournament held every four years. The tournament acts as a prelude to the World Cup, which takes place the following year in the same host country. Only eight teams are allowed to participate in the Confederations Cup. The tournament field is comprised of the six reigning FIFA confederation championship winners, the reigning World Cup champion and the host nation. The 2017 Confederations Cup is set to begin on June 17th in Russia.
The 2017 Confederations Cup will use the same tournament format that has been used since 1997. The qualifying teams are split into two groups of four teams. Each team will play the other teams in their group one time. The two teams in each group with the most points advance to the knockout stage of the tournament. The four remaining teams are then placed in a bracket based on their performance in the group stage. The team that is able to win both games in the knockout phase of the tournament is crowned the champion.
While there is no difference in the tournament format, it will be strange to not see Brazil competing in Russia. Brazil has won four of the first nine Confederations Cup tournaments. They are also the three-time defending champion. This will be the first time since the tournament expanded to eight teams that Brazil did not qualify.
Group A of the 2017 Confederations Cup in Russia consists of New Zealand, Portugal, Mexico and the host nation. This is a relatively easy group because Russia and New Zealand are arguably the two worst teams in the tournament.Russia is the 56th ranked country in the world while New Zealand doesn’t crack the top 100, Portugal is ranked eighth and Mexico is ranked 18th. Russia should get a boost from their home fans, but they are still going to have a hard time knocking off Portugal and Mexico. The host nations have a history of performing well in the Confederations Cup, but Portugal and Mexico are too talented to get eliminated in the group stage.
Group B of the 2017 Confederations Cup consists of Germany, Chile, Australia and an undetermined team from Africa. The winner of the 2017 Africa Cup of Nations will get the final spot in the group. This is easily the tougher of the two groups with two of the top five teams in the world. It will not be easy, but Chile and Germany are too talented to make an early exit from the tournament.
The knockout phase of this tournament is guaranteed to be exciting no matter who advances out of the first round. All four of the top teams in the tournament have a realistic chance to win. Chile may not have as many superstar players as Portugal, Germany or Mexico, but they are probably the most balanced team in this tournament. Chile had to get through a very tough field to win the 2015 Copa America tournament, and they have only continued their great play since that impressive victory. The entire team may need to play the best soccer of their career, but Chile looks poised to win their first Confederations Cup later this year.