The 2017 Confederations Cup is here! Let’s take a look at the qualified teams and how they got here.
Germany: 2014 World Cup winners
Russia: 2018 World Cup hosts
Cameroon: African Cup of Nations winners
Portugal: Euro 2016 winners
Chile: 2015 & 2016 Copa America winners
Australia: Asian Cup winners
Mexico: 2015 Gold Cup winners, defeated USA in a playoff
New Zealand: OFC Nations Cup winners
But enough of that. Here’s what you came to see. My predictions for how this thing will shake out.
Fourth place: Russia
Quite frankly, it’s hard to see the hosts even getting a point. They may be buoyed by the passionate home crowd, but a squad whose best players are Alexander Korkorin and Artem Dzyuba won’t go places.
Third place: New Zealand
Led by free-scoring striker Chris Wood, (no, seriously. He scored 27 goals for Leeds last year) New Zealand has a squad almost entirely made up of English Premier League and Championship players. They managed an impressive 1-1 draw against the United States last October. They’re not pushovers, and will probably beat Russia.
Second place: Mexico
Eliminating New Zealand will be Mexico. El Tri has had a nearly flawless start to World Cup qualifying, and stars Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez, Carlos Vela, and 21 year old wonderkid Hirving Lozano spearhead a deadly strike force.
Group winners: Portugal
The champions of Europe roll in with a stacked squad. Euro 2016 hero Eder was cut from the squad after a less than inspiring season with Lille, but the big stars are all there. Cristiano Ronaldo, Pepe, and new Manchester City signing Bernardo Silva will lead Portugal to the top of the group.
Fourth place: Cameroon
Manager Hugo Broos led Cameroon to a surprising win in the African Cup of Nations, employing a fast-paced, risky style of soccer. It won’t pay off against stronger opposition.
Third place: Australia
The Socceroos haven’t been beat in Asian World Cup qualifying this year. They are on a roll, led by goal threat Tommy Juric and lockdown defensive midfielder Aaron Mooy. They should dispatch the Cameroonians, but face a daunting task against a Chile and Germany.
Second place: Chile
The South American champs are simply loaded in Russia. Arsenal star Alexis Sanchez will spearhead a deadly attack, and Arturo Vidal is no slouch in midfield. They should comfortably qualify for the knockout stage.
Group winners: Germany
You knew this was coming. Complain all you want about the weakened side they’ve sent to Russia. They left Mesut Ozil, Marco Reus, Manuel Neuer, and Toni Kroos at home. So what? Julian Draxler, Emre Can, Jonas Hector, Marc André ter Stegen, and Leon Goretzka are all bound for Russia. There’s more incredible players too. Shkodran Mustafi. Max Meyer. Time Werner. The Germans should win this group comfortably.
Semifinal: Chile defeats Portugal
Chile would come into this matchup set on nothing less than victory. Ronaldo and Silva will keep it close, but Alexis Sanchez will expose the lack of defensive talent Portugal has outside of Pepe.
Semifinal: Germany over Mexico
A year ago, Mexico was thrown out of the Copa America by Chile, to the tune of 7-0. It won’t be that bad, and Hirving Lozano’s speed and skill will cause problems for right back Matthias Ginter. It still won’t be enough, as the German side is simply too good.
Final: Chile over Germany
This is my classic risky Finals pick. Why, you ask, would the reigning world champions lose here? Germany does feature a slightly weakened side, and that is all Chile needs. Gary Medel will shield the defense, allowing Arturo Vidal to get forward and play through balls to the feet of Sanchez, who doesn’t miss.