By Jamie Trecker, FOXSoccer.com
The Confederations Cup group stage wraps up here this weekend with the top of the group at stake in the Group A, and all to play for in Group B. Here’s a quick look at six things you must pay attention to this weekend:
Can Nigeria upset Spain?
The African champions sent a young team to this Confederations Cup and that may prove their undoing: while they have plenty of desire and power in the likes of Brown Ideye and Ahmed Musa, their defense has shown their inexperience. Against a Spanish side that seems to be rolling from strength to strength, this seems like a tall order on Sunday for the Super Eagles. One positive is manager Stephen Keshi: he’s managed to make this at times unruly bunch gel, so if anyone can get this team ready to go, it’s him.
What will Uruguay do to Tahiti?
Tahiti have been the darlings of the Confederations Cup. Almost wholly amateur, the Oceanic champions have been blown out in record fashion, but have won the hearts of the Brazilian crowds simply because of their hell-for-leather style of play. Uruguay will beat them, of course. The question is by how much, and it is an important one. Goal difference could come into play here, and with Nigeria ahead of them on +4, they must score early and often. It’s time for Edinson Cavani to show up at this shindig.
(Photo: Robert Cianflone / Getty Images)
How long has “Chepo” got?
Mexico is in rough shape. Already eliminated after a tough 2-0 loss to Brazil – a game, it must be noted, in which El Tri didn’t look half bad – the questions now turn to the coaching staff and the World Cup. Jose Manuel “Chepo” de la Torre is already under fire for a lackluster qualification campaign that has El Tri sitting third – well behind the hated United States. That’s nowhere near good enough for this Olympic gold medal-winning nation. Adding fuel to the fire are reports his team went out to a strip bar after their loss to Italy. Indiscipline? An inability to score? Behind the USA? Sounds like “Chepo” had better hop on Craigslist.
Can Fernando Torres break the Confederations Cup scoring record?
After pushing four past tiny Tahiti, Fernando Torres has a shot at snapping a curious record: the all-time total goals count at the Confederations Cup. He currently has seven goals; the all-time record is nine, jointly held by Mexico’s Cuauhtemoc Blanco and Brazil’s Ronaldinho. While Spain are not yet mathematically guaranteed a spot in the semifinals, realistically, he’s going to have at least two games – one against Nigeria, and one against either Italy or Brazil – to score three. Watch and see if he can do it.
(Photo: Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)
How will Brazil react to Brazil?
The hosts haven’t looked great this tournament, and there are one million reasons why. The protests rocking the nation have hit this young group of players hard, and it’s easy to excuse them for being distracted. Neymar is having a superb tournament but the rest of the side looks sluggish. Their real test will come in a “meaningless” game against Italy. Brazil surely wants to win the group – and perhaps avoid Spain in the semifinals – but a loss wouldn’t be fatal. How the nation reacts to the result – good or bad – is the next major story of this young tournament.
Will the Confederations Cup even finish?
This is the million-dollar question. The protests in Brazil are growing larger and more violent as the days roll on. The Confederations Cup is a magnet for the movement’s ire, with good reason: if there’s anything that sums up corruption better than the word “FIFA,” I don’t know it. How long the tournament can continue depends on what happens in the streets this weekend. Teams will pull out if they feel their safety is threatened. Let’s all hope it doesn’t come to that.