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Jun 132013

There have been plenty of questions surrounding Brazil’s preparation for the 2014 World Cup as well as the 2013 Confederations Cup that kicks off Saturday when the hosts take on Japan. Many of those questions have been completely justified. Stadium construction has been constantly behind schedule. Crime continues to threaten visitors. Prostitution continues to be a major talking point.

But when Saturday’s opening match between Brazil and Japan kicks off, there will be a tremendous amount of optimism. Brazil is second only to Spain as a favorite to win the Confederations Cup and given the success of previous World Cup hosts they would have to be considered a Top 5 contender for next summer’s title.


As hosts of next summer’s World Cup, Brazil is automatically entered into this tournament.


For the first time in a long time, Brazil has a plethora of young, talented players at all corners of the field. The defense is led by guys like David Luiz and Marcelo. The midfield features the likes of Oscar, Luiz Gustavo, and Paulinho. Then there’s the forward line which includes Neymar, Hulk, and Leandro Damiao. They are young, but they will also be inspired by the home crowd. They’ll ride the waves of emotion from representing their country in an international tournament that isn’t the Olympics.

And those are just the “youngsters”.

There’s also veteran European club stars like Thiago Silva, Dani Alves, Hernanes, and Julio Cesar. Although theirs is the tougher of the two groups, Brazil will still be favored to progress to the final. Luiz Felipe Scolari is back at the helm after winning the 2002 World Cup. Everything is lined up perfectly. There’s no reason to think they won’t meet Spain for the right to hoist the trophy, both now and next summer.


The best players on this squad have no experience in big pressure situations outside of the Olympics. They lost the gold medal match to Mexico 2-1 after rolling through the group stage and initial knockout rounds. Oscar, Neymar, and Hulk will play huge roles in the Confederations Cup and they will have to respond to failing in their first major title match.

They would also do well not to underestimate the task they face in trying to get out of their group. Italy and Japan are very disciplined sides that won’t allow Brazil to simply dribble the ball into the net. Mexico has already shown they aren’t afraid of Brazil, regardless of the stage. And if they do get out of the group, they’ll likely face a very talented Uruguay squad before they eventually meet the juggernaut that is Spain.


This tournament is the first opportunity for the dynamic forward to play on a big stage since he completed a move to Barcelona a few weeks ago. He dazzled with some brilliant goals while at Santos, but now everyone wants to know if he can do it with hundreds of millions of people watching. Despite the plethora of attacking options at this Brazil squad’s disposal, it’s Neymar who will be counted upon to score the goals that will take them to the final.


Goalkeepers (3): Julio Cesar (Queens Park Rangers-ENG), Jefferson (Botafogo-BRA), Diego Cavalieri (Fluminense-BRA)

Defenders (8): Dani Alves (Barcelona-ESP), Thiago Silva (Paris-Saint Germain-FRA), David Luiz (Chelsea-ENG), Marcelo (Real Madrid-ESP), Dante (Bayern Munich-GER), Filipe Luis (Atletico Madrid-ESP), Jean (Fluminense-BRA), Rever (Atletico Mineiro-BRA)

Midfielders (4): Fernando (Shakhtar Donetsk-UKR), Hernanes (Lazio-ITA), Luiz Gustavo (Bayern Munich-GER), Paulinho (Corinthians-BRA)

Forwards (7): Lucas (Paris-Saint Germain-FRA), Fred (Fluminense-BRA), Neymar (Barcelona-ESP), Oscar (Chelsea-ENG), Hulk (Zenit St. Petersburg-RUS), Bernard (Atletico Mineiro-BRA), Leandro Damiao (SC Internacional-BRA), Jadson (Sao Paulo-BRA)

Confederations Cup Preview: Uruguay

 Posted by on June 12, 2013 at 9:15 pm  Blogs/Media
Jun 122013
uruguay flag 300x203 Confederations Cup Preview: Uruguay

Could this be the flag of the future Confederations Cup champions?

Despite being one of the smallest countries to ever play in the Confederations Cup and the World Cup, Uruguay is one of the most storied national teams in all of international football. Winners of the original World Cup in 1930 and the 1950 World Cup in Brazil, this is a club that has had legends like Hector Scarrone, Oscar Miguez, Jose Nasazzi, and Obdulio Varela on their side. A country whose footballing history dates back to the 1880’s, they are one of football’s giants, even if their country only has a population of a little over 3 million.
Uruguay took a bit of a nap in the 1990’s and early 2000’s, missing out on qualification for the 1994, 1998, and 2006 World Cups and only winning the Copa America once in 1995 at home. The past few years have been different though as the club finished fourth in the 2010 World Cup in South Africa and won the 2011 Copa America.

As previously mentioned, Uruguay qualified for the Confederations Cup by defeating Paraguay 3-0 in the Copa America. Uruguay has won four Copa America titles and eleven South American Championships, which is the predecessor to the Copa America.


Simply put, there is no team in the Confederations Cup that can match Uruguay on the offensive side of the ball. Based off of tonight’s performance against Venezuela and their victory over France, it seems as if the team clicking offensively. With a three headed monster of Luis Suarez, Edinson Cavani, and Diego Forlan this club should be able to score goals at will on their opponents. So far in World Cup Qualifying, Suarez has scored 9 goals in the competition, including 4 against Chile in November. When you add in Cavani’s 5 and Forlan’s 3 you have yourself quite a potent combination of forwards up front. I honestly fear that the Uruguay-Tahiti game may go into the double digits.
But I think this tournament will be a great asset for Uruguay’s qualification hopes for the World Cup. It provides Tabarez an excellent opportunity to gauge his team’s depth and to give their younger players a chance to progress. In a South American country, they will not to put on a poor performance. Also with players like Suarez, Forlan, and midfielder Cristian Ramirez looking to move on to bigger clubs this tournament could provide them with an important opportunity to showcase their skills on the world stage. It is important both for the general health of the squad and for their World Cup aspirations that they take this tournament seriously.


Qualification for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil has not been easy for Uruguay. After last night’s victory over Venezuela, the team currently stands in fifth place, tied on points with Venezuela and only two points ahead of Peru. Fifth place will only guarantee them a playoff with a representative from the AFC. They are five points behind Chile for fourth with four games left to play. Among those last four games are two road games to Argentina and Colombia, and two home matches with Peru and Ecuador. Not a very easy road to travel to Brazil 2014.

Their biggest problem has been their defense. They have allowed in 21 goals in matches, which is tied for the second highest CONMEBOL competition (Only Bolivia is higher with 23.) There are also some very bad losses and draws in the record book, including a 4-0 pasting by Bolivia, a 1-1 draw with Paraguay, and losing 4-0 to Colombia.

Age is also part of the problem: while the club that played in South Africa was a young talented squad about to reach its potential, it appears that their performance has peaked. Players like Diego Forlan (although he did just score a wonderful goal in a friendly against France last week) and Diego Lugano have lost a bit of a step. For this team to have success both in the Confederations Cup and in World Cup qualifying it must start using its younger players like Gaston Ramirez of Southampton and Nicolas Lodeior of Botafogo. And for a team that has a porous defense it needs Sebastian Coates to finally live up to his talent. You could see it happening a little at the end of the season with Liverpool. He seemed much more comfortable with his assignments and his passing had improved.

While Uruguay should have no problem with Tahiti, Spain still has a better squad than Uruguay and should take them to task. Whether or not Uruguay advances will solely depend on how they can handle the raw speed and athleticism of Nigeria. This is a team that showed in the Africa Cup of Nations that it can blindside teams on the counter-attack. When Uruguay against clubs like Colombia and Venezuela, you can tell that they struggle against faster squads. Even if Uruguay does make it through, it will have a difficult time with teams like Brazil,Italy, Japan, and Mexico (I am still trying to figure out who it makes with through that group of death.) While I am sure Coach Oscar Tabarez would like to win another trophy before he leaves next year, he must take this opportunity to find out what he has in this squad. It is better to lose a game in the Confederations Cup than the World Cup.


There are plenty of players that are worth watching on this Uruguayan team. I could write 3000 words on Diego Forlan alone. But this squad depends on the success on the skill and attitude of Luis Suarez. When he is on, he is one of the best players in the world. A menacing forward who can make impossible goals realistic, who can take the tightest of spots and make it seem like there is ten feet between him and the defender. In addition to the nine goals that he has scored for Uruguay during World Cup Qualification, he scored 30 goals in all competitions for Liverpool last season. From all indications he is fiercely loyal to his teammates and gives it his all during every match. While many look at the hand ball incident at the 2010 World Cup as one of the most heinous incidents in all of professional sports, the fact of the matter is that had he not done it his team would have been gone from the World Cup. It may not have been pretty, it may not have been professional, but it worked. And besides it was nowhere near as bad as the dive by Cote D’Ivoire midfielder Kader Keita that had Kaka sent off.

That being said, many of Mr. Suarez’s actions both with club and country are indefensible. He has to realize when his actions on the pitch are counter-productive to his team. Biting players and using racial slurs will not make him a better player or an attractive asset to the likes of Real Madrid and Bayern Munich, two of his potential suitors. He has to keep his head in the game and must learn to play within the rules. Unfortunately at this point because of his reputation he may not be able to do that.

Playing on an international stage like the Confederations Cup gives Suarez a unique opportunity to change the narrative that is associated with his career. If he can lift his team to glory, he sets his squad up for being serious contenders for next year’s World Cup and for a massive payday with whatever club team would want him. If he chooses to act like a fool, however, Uruguay will suffer and he will never be mentioned of the world’s great players.


Goalkeepers: Fernando Muslera (Galatasaray,) Juan Castillo (Danubio,) and Martin Silva (Olimpia.)

Defenders: Diego Lugano-Captain (Malaga,) Diego Godin (Atletico Madrid,) Sebastian Coates (Liverpool,) Matias Aguirregarray (Penarol,) Maxi Perreira (Benfica,) Andres Scotti (Nacional,) and Martin Caceres (Juventus.)

Midfielders: Walter Gargano (Internazionale,) Alvaro Pereira (Internazionale,) Cristian Rodriguez (Atletico Madrid,) Sebastian Eguren (Libertad,) Nicolas Lodeiro (Botafogo,) Diego Perez (Bologna,) Egidio Arevalo Rios (Palermo,) Gaston Ramirez (Southampton,) and Alvaro Gonzalez (Lazio.)

Forwards: Luis Suarez (Liverpool,) Diego Forlan (Internacional,) Abel Hernandez (Palermo,) and Edinson Cavani (Napoli.)


June 16th: Spain vs. Uruguay
June 20th: Nigeria vs. Uruguay
June 23rd: Tahiti vs. Uruguay

Brazil v. Mexico: Gold-Medal Preview

 Posted by on August 11, 2012 at 5:51 am  2012 Olympics
Aug 112012

Historically speaking Mexico has never won any medal in the Olympics and yet this Mexico side has made it to the gold medal match is a considerable accomplishment. Brazil has won at every competition that their men have ever participated in, U-17 World Cup, U-20 World Cup, Confederations Cup, World Cup but not an Olympic gold medal.

That plays mind game of extreme size on players on both sides though it’s who thrives the most and is hungrier that will come out on top in this. Let’s look at the teams.

Out of CONCACAF, a region that is always underestimated in terms of talent and competition strength, is Mexico. For the first time at all levels they are thriving and meeting their lofty standards as a football nation. They like to play to their strength of technical skill and until now every opponent they have had so far.

From South America comes Brazil looking to get the Olympic monkey off their back. This is the chance for the young blood of Brazil to make their marks at making 2014 since their only competitive fixtures coming up are next summer’s
Confederations Cup. This side is chalked full of talent and in their games played have shown so in outscoring
their opposition by a score of 15-5.

It would seem that Brazil now hold the advantage. With players like Hulk, Neymar, Leonardo Damiao, and Alexandre Pato it is hard to go wrong there. Mexico has huge talent in the attacking third and had figured out on a system that worked, until Giovani Dos Santos got injured. With the Mexican star injured the chemistry that had developed up top for Mexico with Oribe Peralta is gone.

Out of the midfield is where this is won by the Mexican side by the narrowest of margins. Yes the play of Brazil has been fun to watch, particularly that of Oscar, but it is the midfield that has been the best for Mexico. Marco Fabian has been exactly what was anticipated, a revelation. He was been able to be a linchpin that has kept the Mexican side progressing all the way to the gold medal match.

It is a deadlock with pluses on both sides. Mexico went with an experienced hand in goal so they called in Jose de Jesus Corona to take the gloves. Brazil has a solid back line that can do more than just
defend, they can add to the attack.

Thing is this game is determined out on the field and it will be who wants to hear their national anthem played as they see their flag raised above Wembley.<

That team will be Mexico and will serve as a signal that the West is where the football is best.<

Brian Sanders