The football season never truly ends. Even in a summer without the World Cup or European Championships, there is still plenty of games to whet the appetites of fans. The pick of the action will take place at the Confederations Cup, which will take place in Russia from 17th June – 2nd July. It will act as a prelude to the 2018 World Cup, allowing Russia to ‘test drive’ their new stadia, transport links and, sadly as our times demand, security arrangements in the run up to next year’s Finals. However, a competition featuring three of the top 10 sides in international football will undoubtedly provide plenty of action and drama in its own right.
This will be the 10th Confederations Cup tournament, and the first to be held in Russia. The idea is to hold a competition between the champions of different FIFA Confederations, as well as the World Champions (Germany) and the hosts of the next World Cup (Russia). Joining them will be European Champions Portugal, Asian Cup winners Australia, CONACAF Cup winners Mexico, Copa America winners Chile, African Cup of Nations winners Cameroon and the holders of the OFC Nations Cup, New Zealand.
The format, although smaller in scale, is similar to the one used at the World Cup, with teams split into groups of four. Each team will play each other once in the group stage, with the top two in each group qualifying for the semi-finals. Group A features Russia, New Zealand, Portugal and Mexico. Group B contains Cameroon, Australia, Germany and Chile. The Confederations Cup Final will take place on July 2nd at the St Petersburg Stadium.
While perhaps not enjoying the immense prestige of the World Cup or European Championships, the Confederations Cup is nonetheless a worthy competition. We will be once again treated to sight of Cristiano Ronaldo, Toni Kroos and Alexis Sanchez strutting their stuff on the international stage. Ronaldo in particular will be hoping to continue showing the incredible form that has seen him become a double Champions League winner, La Liga Winner and European Championship winner in the last year alone. He will also be acutely aware that having a good tournament will aid his cause to equal Lionel Messi’s haul of five Balon D’Or awards.
The pick of the group games could well be Germany vs Chile (22nd June, Kazan), which will see the World Cup winners go up against a Chilean side packed with talent. Although Germany start as worthy tournament favourites, it will be interesting to see how they fare against a side many see as a dark horse chance for the World Cup. You can take a look at the upcoming Confederations Cup matches, as well as find odds for the outright winner, at William Hill now.
At the very least, the Confederations Cup will give fans an opportunity to sample the atmosphere that awaits them in the World Cup next year. Despite some issues with preparations, notably delays in stadium builds and renovations, the Russian government will be eager to welcome the football world to its country. A taste of what is to come next year perhaps, but an exciting few weeks of football to light up our summer is just around the corner.