The FIFA Confederations Cup – Continental showdown
One of the most recent introductions to FIFA’s range of competitions for national teams is the FIFA Confederations Cup, held every four years. In recent times, it has been seen as a warm-up event in the host country of the next FIFA World Cup™, but is by no means a minor competition.
In fact, due to the nature of its participants, it is often referred to as the ‘Festival of Champions’ tournament. The FIFA Confederations Cup aims to give the top teams from all continents a chance to represent their region in a world play-off, and this opportunity – together with the handsome prize money that goes with it – is particularly important and appealing to teams from certain developing football continents.
The FIFA Confederations Cup was first designated a FIFA competition in December 1997 when it was held in Riyadh in Saudi Arabia. Previously there had been two other tournaments in Riyadh, in 1992 and 1995, under the title of Intercontinental Championship.
In 1992, the winners were Argentina, then reigning South American champions. They came with a starstudded team including Batistuta, Redondo, Caniggia and Simeone and carried off the trophy after defeating the host country, despite their tremendous support from the home fans, in the final. The other two teams taking part on that occasion were the USA and Côte d’Ivoire.
Six teams took part in the 1995 competition and this time it was Denmark who took the honours, with strong performances from the Laudrup brothers earning them victory over Argentina. Mexico and Nigeria made it to the semi-finals, while Japan and the host country were eliminated after losing both of their group matches.
In 1997, Brazil promptly stamped their authority on the competition to win the striking new gold trophy. One of the main purposes of the tournament was clearly demonstrated when Australia made it to the final to take on the then world champions.
In 1999, the Mexicans richly deserved to win the cup as one of two teams unbeaten in the group stage to make it to the final. The home ”Azteca” factor – Mexico had not been beaten there for 18 years – could not be ignored. Brazil lived up to expectations as their talent factory continued to produce outstanding players.
The tournament also witnessed a standard of goalkeepers seldom seen in a single tournament with the likes of Keller (USA), Campos (MEX), Dida (BRA) and Utting (NZL) competing. Surprise packages Saudi Arabia recovered after a 5-1 thrashing by Mexico in their opening match to qualify for the semi-finals, following a 5-1 win in an all-Arab clash with Egypt. The USA defeated giants Germany only to later narrowly fail to a golden goal by Mexico’s top scorer Blanco. New Zealand went home happy after gamely facing up to Germany and the USA.
In Korea/Japan in 2001, a near-capacity crowd of over 65,000 saw world champions France defeat co-hosts Japan with the only goal of the final to win the tournament and complete an unprecedented hat-trick of three major trophies in just four years. But they had to defend resolutely at times as Japan staged a secondhalf fight-back. In 2003, defending and European champions France hosted the FIFA Confederations Cup, organising matches in three of the 1998 World Cup stadiums – Lyons, St Etienne and Paris/St Denis.
Brazil had to accept an early flight home after the group stage, bowing out of a tough group of strong performers in the shape of Cameroon, Turkey and the USA. The revitalised hosts, on the other hand, won their group. Turkey consolidated their rise as a global football power and only just missed out on a place in the final. The event was overshadowed by the tragic death of Cameroonian midfielder Marc-Vivien Foe, whose team-mates conceded the title to France by a whisker in an emotionally charged final against an equally shaken French side.
Despite the absence of superstar striker Ronaldo from the FCC 2005, Brazil dazzled in an exciting final against rivals Argentina to lift the trophy for the second time. Adriano gained justified recognition as a force to be reckoned with, earning both the adidas Golden Ball and Golden Shoe awards. While Argentina’s defeat was hard to take, their performance clearly showed a hint of great things to come with the competition shining a spotlight on the magical skills of their key player, Riquelme.
The competition also displayed German prowess in the shape of a well-organised dry run for the 2006 FIFA World Cup™ and the emergence of a young and promising German team – in particular, the partnership of up-and-coming starlets Podolski and Schweinsteiger – under the watchful eye of footballing legend Jürgen Klinsmann, enabling them to secure third-place in a thrilling extra time play-off against Mexico.
In 2009, for the first time in the history of the FIFA Confederations Cup, the event took place on African soil. South Africa certainly proved themselves capable of hosting the 2010 FIFA World Cup™ and impressively presented some of their World Cup host cities – Johannesburg, Rustenburg, Mangaung/Bloemfontein und Tshwane/Pretoria. The gripping tournament in South Africa ended with a worthy final in Johannesburg with both Brazil and the USA battling for the title. After a 3-2 victory, it was Brazil who lifted the trophy for the third time.
13 things you need to know
1. The FIFA Confederations Cup Brazil 2013 is the seventh edition under this name, the first of which took place in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, in 1997. Before this there were two preceding tournaments in 1992 and 1995 known as the King Fahd Cup which were also organised by the Saudi Arabian Football Federation and which are generally included in historical and statistical reviews.
2. The FIFA Confederations Cup 2013 will be Brazil’s seventh consecutive participation the most of all national teams. They also have been awarded the most trophies having won in 1997, 2005, 2009 and being runners-up in 1999.
3. The only teams to successfully defend their title are France in 2003 and Brazil in 2009
4. To date 29 teams have participated in at least one edition of the FIFA Confederations Cup. In Brazil 2013 Tahiti will be the only newcomer.
5. This will be the fourth edition of the FIFA Confederations Cup to be played one year before in the same host country as the FIFA World Cup™. The first was Korea/Japan 2001, followed by Germany 2005 and South Africa 2009.
6. Brazil 2013 will be the first FIFA Confederations Cup with four representative teams that were former world champions: Uruguay, Italy, Brazil and Spain.
7. Five out of the eight participating teams at the FIFA Confederations Cup 2013 were also present in the FIFA World Cup 1950™ also hosted by Brazil: Italy, Mexico, Spain, Uruguay and Brazil.
8. Brazil will be the fifth different confederation to host the FIFA Confederations Cup – South America. Asia have already done so four times, Europe twice, North Central America and Caribbean once and Africa once. Only the Oceania zone has not yet hosted the event. In the eight competitions held to date, South Americans have claimed the title four times (with three wins for Brazil and one for Argentina) although Europe have almost matched the feat with three titles (two for France and one for Denmark). The only other title went to North and Central America thanks to Mexico’s win over Brazil on home soil in 1999. Each confederation has been represented in the final at least once. So far, only France (2003) and Brazil (2009) have successfully defended their title.
9. Only previous hosts Mexico (1999) and France (2003) triumphed on home soil. Japan did, however, reach the final in 2001.
10. All confederations have been represented at least once in a FIFA Confederations Cup final. Australia’s qualification in 1997, when they were still part of the Oceania Football Confederation, was the biggest surprise.
11. Continental derbies have been few and far between at the FIFA Confederations Cup. Two teams from the same confederation have only come up against each other on three occasions. The most recent encounter was the super clásico between Brazil and Argentina in the 2005 final. The two before that were Mexico and USA in 1999 and France and Turkey in 2003. This list could be extended in 2013 if Brazil meet Uruguay or if Spain play Italy.
12. Brazil’s goalkeeper Dida is the player with the most participations. He was present in five editions from 1997 to 2005 for a total of 22 matches. Mexico’s Cuauhtemoc Blanco and Brazil’s Ronaldinho are the all-time top scorers with nine goals each.
13. No foreign coach has ever won a FIFA Confederations Cup title. All eight winning coaches were native. Brazil’s Mario Zagallo and Carlos Alberto Parreira are the only two to have won both the FIFA World Cup™ and the FIFA Confederations Cup.