Confederations Cup Preview: Group B
Although somewhat tougher to qualify for than the FIFA World Cup Finals, the Confederations Cup has long been viewed as merely a ‘warm-up’ for the main event, which takes place 12 months later.
After hosts Russia defeated New Zealand 2-0 on day one on the 2017 edition, day two sees the remaining sides from Group ‘A’ – Portugal and Mexico – kicks things off in Kazan, before Group ‘B’ gets underway later in the day.
With the nation’s in Group ‘A’ introduced yesterday, those from Group ‘B’ are previewed below.
The 2017 Confederations Cup takes place just a year before the same nation, Russia, host the FIFA World Cup Finals.
Germany – The World Champions
FIFA World Ranking: 3
Germany may have won the World Cup just three years ago, but only three members of that winning squad – Julian Draxler, Shkodran Mustafi, and Matthias Ginter – have travelled to Russia, as Die Mannschaft prepare for a third Confederations Cup appearance in the competition’s 25-year history.
However, with the likes of PSG’s Draxler, Manchester City star Leroy Sane, and Liverpool’s Emre Can all present, that is not to say the ability of this side should be underestimated.
The world champions have won all six games in World Cup Qualification, and will be expected to improve on their best-ever finish at this event – as bronze medallists when they played host in 2005.
Key Man: Julian Draxler
The PSG playmaker boasts experience on the international stage that cannot be matched by any of his teammates; his 30 caps leading the way in the German squad.
Coach: Joachim Low
A surprise selection by the German Football Association 11 years ago following limited success in club management, head coach Joachim Low has guided his nation to a first and third-place finish at the 2014 and 2010 World Cups respectively, along with two European Championship semi-finals.
Chile – Champions of South America
FIFA World Ranking: 4
Ranked just a place behind Germany and in fourth in the FIFA World Rankings, this Chile side have a strong case to be even higher.
La Roja qualified for this competition as winners of Copa America 2015, and they went one step further last year, by winning the prestigious Copa America Centenario, validating their claims to be the number one side in both North and South America.
Superstars Alexis Sanchez and Arturo Vidal may be the ones to watch in this side, but quality is apparent throughout the Chilean squad, with a stern defence partnering the flair offered by the likes of Eduardo Vargas.
Key Man: Alexis Sanchez
The star man for his club and country, Arsenal forward Alexis Sanchez is just one goal away from becoming his nation’s all-time record goal scorer. Do not be surprised if number 38 comes against Cameroon on Sunday, especially with the 28-year-old looking for a move away from the Emirates this summer.
Alexis Sanchez is the star man in the Chile squad.
Coach: Juan Antonio Pizzi
Big boots were left to fill when former boss Jorge Sampaoli left first for Sevilla and then for Argentina, yet Juan Antonio Pizzi has continued where his predecessor left off, and the 49-year-old will back his side against anyone.
Cameroon – Champions of Africa
FIFA World Ranking: 32
Cameroon have qualified for this – the biggest football tournament of the summer – against all odds, defeating favourites Egypt 2-1 in Gabon to win the 2017 African Cup of Nations.
Vincent Aboubakar came off the bench to net an 88th minute winner in that tie, and the Porto striker will be the danger man for his side in Russia over the next couple of weeks.
The Indomitable Lions could struggle with the likes of Germany and Chile in this group, but it would be foolish to write off their chances of reaching the final four, even if only at this stage.
Key Man: Vincent Aboubakar
25-year-old forward Aboubakar has enjoyed an excellent season on-loan with Turkish side Besiktas, and the €3million transfer fee that Porto signed for him in 2014 could well be multiplied this summer, with a plethora of European clubs targeting the Cameroonian’s signature.
Coach: Hugo Broos
Former Belgian central defender Hugo Broos had coached in five different countries since finally leaving his home nation in 2008, and this year’s African Cup of Nations victory has justified his shock appointment in February 2016.
Australia – The Champions of Asia
FIFA World Ranking: 48
The Football Federation Australia’s (FFA) decision to leave the Oceania Football Conference (OFC) in 2006 and instead become a member of the Asian Football Conference (AFC) has proven to be a smart one, qualifying for every FIFA World Cup Finals since, and head coach Ange Postecoglu has further improved the Socceroos in his four years in charge.
The Asian Champions have since competed admirably in a 2014 World Cup group which included holders Spain, 2010 runners-up Netherlands, and a daunting Chile side.
Postecoglu then guided the Aussies to victory in just their third ever Asian Cup Finals two years ago, but they will no doubt miss star man, Mile Jedinak, in Russia.
Key Man: Mathew Ryan
It is a worrying sign when your key man is positioned between the sticks. However, Mathew Ryan has just signed a five-year deal with Premier League side Brighton & Hove Albion, becoming the club’s record signing in the process, following a successful spell with Valencia in La Liga.
Mathew Ryan became Brighton & Hove Albion's record signing in the week, and he will now look to star for nation Australia, as they look to defy the odds at the 2017 Confederations Cup.
Coach: Ange Postecoglu
Born in Athens, Greece, Postecoglu emigrated to Australia aged five, where he has since enjoyed a career spanning 33 years in the game, proving his ability as both a player and manager. The Socceroos have progressively improved under his guidance.