Serie A may be over and lo Scudetto locked away in Inter’s trophy cabinet for another summer, but the fun is not over for football obsessed fans. Over the next few weeks, Football Italiano will be keeping loyal readers entertained and up-to-date with our coverage of the 2009 FIFA Confederations Cup, including previews of all the Azzurri’s games, news from the Italian camp, tactical features and full analysis of each Italian match. On June 14, we will see Marcello Lippi take his men to South Africa in hope of winning the trophy for the first time in their debut appearance in the competition.
The African people are bursting with enthusiasm as South Africa plays host to the first of two prestigious FIFA tournaments. United and excited, the Confederations Cup alone has generated thousands of jobs for young Africans as they come together to organise a competition that will pit teams from war-trodden countries such as Iraq, against European powerhouses such as Spain. Different nations sharing a common love of the beautiful game (and a proven success), will be brought together in the very country that has worked so hard in bridging their own racial divides. What better way for us to begin our coverage of the tournament than by shedding light on what the competition means, the history behind the competition, and ultimately how the winner will be decided.
The Confederations Cup is a national team football tournament, held every four years. It is contested by the winners of each of the six FIFA confederation championships (CAF, CONMEBOL, UEFA, AFC, OFC, CONCACAF), along with the FIFA World Cup winner and the host country to bring the total number of teams to eight. The teams that have qualified for the 2009 Confederations Cup are as follows:
South Africa – Host nation
Italy – 2006 FIFA World Cup winner
Egypt – 2008 African Cup of Nations (CAF) winner
Brazil – 2007 Copa América winner
Spain – 2008 UEFA European Championships winner
Iraq – 2007 AFC Asian Cup winner
New Zealand – 2008 OFC Nations Cup winner
USA – 2007 CONCACAF Gold Cup
The tournament was originally organised and hosted by Saudi Arabia in 1992, as King Fahd had just finished building the most splendid $568m national stadium in the capital Riyadh and wanted to immediately fill it with prestige. He invited continental champions to come and play his beloved national team in a tournament that he christened the King Fahd Cup. The stadium was so opulent in a country not known for its football success that rumours quickly spread of the organisers playing recorded tapes of applause to raise the level of noise as the teams made their way on to the pitch. The first ever tournament saw Saudi Arabia pitted against only three continental champions. The first of them was USA, winner of the 1991 CONCACAF Gold Cup. The second was Côte d’Ivoire, winner of the 1992 African Nations Cup (CAF) and lastly Argentina, the 1991 Copa América winners (CONMEBOL), who went on to win the first ever title.
The next competition was held in 1995 and saw the introduction of two additional continental champions. Denmark, the winner of the 1992 UEFA European Championships, and Japan, the winner of the 1992 AFC Asian Cup, took the total tally of teams up to six. Denmark beat the defending champions Argentina to win the tournament and claim the second title. In 1997, FIFA took over the organisation of the competition, added two additional teams (the host country and the previous World Cup winner) and renamed it the FIFA Confederations Cup which was to be staged every two years. Argentina was absent for this title as their deadliest rivals in their continent, Brazil, went on to win the newly named cup, at the time becoming the only national team to have won both major FIFA tournaments (the World Cup and the Confederations Cup), as well as having been crowned champions of the 1997 Copa América. This achievement was replicated by France when they finally secured all three titles (the two FIFA trophies and Euro 2000) in 2001. Brazil and France are the two most successful teams when it comes to winning the Confederations Cup, having won two apiece.
In 2005, FIFA decided to stage the competition every four years and the tournament is now viewed as a ‘dress rehearsal’ for the World Cup. The host nation for the Confederations Cup, since 2005 when Germany had the honour, are the nation selected to host the World Cup the following year. Brazil will take over hosting the competition in 2013. This will be the eighth Confederations Cup and the journey for the eight teams that have qualified will begin on Sunday June 14. The eight teams have been split into two groups – A and B. Group A lists South Africa, Iraq, New Zealand and Spain. Group B will consist of Brazil, Italy, Egypt and USA.
Each team plays each other once. Upon completion of the group phase, we will enter into the second phase of the competition. The winner of Group A will take on the runner-up of Group B on June 24 and the winner of Group B will take on the runner-up of Group A on the June 25. The losers of the respective games will be pitted against each other on June 28 to determine third place. The final will be held later same day in Johannesburg’s Coca Cola Park to decide the winner of the coveted trophy.
It may not be as big as the World Cup, but the Confederations Cup has already been dubbed as the ‘Champions of Champions’ Cup. According to the South African Times, “the eight-team championship is now regarded as second only in prestige to the World Cup finals.” As if to emphasise the rise in the standing of the competition, the BBC has decided to buy the rights to show all the games on TV for the British public. For those of you living in the UK hoping to catch the continental champions battling it out, then BBC Three will be the channel to broadcast all the live matches of the tournament. For those of you in Italy, coverage rights will be shared between Sky Italia and Rai.
As the tournament is held in the same country that will host the 2010 FIFA World Cup, each Coach will be able to gauge how it will feel to play in this sport-loving continent. In the past, many have viewed the event as an unwanted inconvenience, especially as up until 1999 the competition was staged in the winter, depriving major clubs from their top names in the midst of their seasonal campaigns. This is no longer the case as the ‘dress rehearsal’ tournament is now staged in the summer and will provide Coaches with the chance to hand experience to young national stars and to try and test new tactics and winning formations against real champions in, with the intention of constructing a World Cup winning team. Stay tuned to Football Italiano to read how the Azzurri will fare in this exciting competition under Marcello Lippi’s tutelage.
Italy at the 2009 FIFA Confederations Cup
June 6, 2009 – 19:50 – Arena Garibaldi, Pisa
Italy 3-0 Northern Ireland – Rossi 19, Foggia 52, Pellissier 73
June 10, 2009 – 19:50 – Super Stadium, Pretoria
Italy 4-3 New Zealand – Gilardino 33, 48, Iaquinta 68, 73; Smeltz 13, Killen 42, pen 57
June 15, 2009 – 20:30 – Loftus Versfeld Stadium, Pretoria
Italy vs. USA
June 18, 2009 – 20:30 – Coca-Cola Park, Johannesburg
Italy vs. Egypt
June 21, 2009 – 20:30 – Loftus Versfeld Stadium, Pretoria
Italy vs. Brazil
June 24-25, 2009 – both 20:30 – Vodacom Park, Bloemfontein & Coca-Cola Park, Johannesburg
June 28, 2009 – 15:00 – Royal Bafokeng Stadium, Rustenburg
Third place play-off
June 28, 2009 – 20:30 – Coca-Cola Park, Johannesburg