• Expectations for the 2017 FIFA Confederations Cup

    Ladies and gentlemen,

    The 2017 FIFA Confederations Cup in Russia is finally going to start this weekend. Here are my expectations and predictions regarding the outcome of the tournament.

    2017 FIFA Confederations Cup

    Group A

    Russia:

    Strengths: The Russians will try to impress their home fans and will present a strong squad. They will be pushed by their fans, media and politics. The team's squad is very homogeneous since all twenty-three players are currently playing in Russia and know one another really well.

    Weaknesses: The Russian team is lacking international experience. Most players haven't played in Europe's best leagues and tournaments. Current manager Stanislav Cherchesov has only been in office for less than a year and had only managed smaller teams before getting the prestigious job as national coach.

    Expectations: The squad is too weak and inexperienced to advance to the semi-finals. If the Russians can get one single victory in their group, it would actually already be a success.

    New Zealand:

    Strengths: Soccer has been growing in popularity over the last few years in New Zealand. This squad was the only one to not lose a single game during the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa when the team got three respectable draws against Italy, Paraguay and Slovakia. The team's biggest advantage is that it doesn't have any pressure on its shoulders since nobody expects this team to advance to the knockout phase.

    Weaknesses: New Zealand is still a soccer developing country. Less than a handful of players are playing in international top leagues. Their goalkeeper Stefan Marinovic has played in Germany's fourth division last season, defender Deklan Wynne plays for Vancouver Whitecaps' second team in North America's second division, forward Shane Smeltz plays in Indonesia's first division.

    Expectations: New Zealand's team just doesn't have the cohesion, experience and strength to advance to the knockout phase. This team is by far the weakest on paper in this tournament. If New Zealand managed to get just one draw, it would already be a positive surprise.

    Portugal:

    Strengths: Portugal has recently been shaking up the world of soccer with its surprising win of the 2016 UEFA European Championship. The team has since then played with a lot of confidence. The most important key players of this winning team are on board and even star players such as Nani, Pepe and Cristiano Ronaldo will participate in this tournament. Head coach Fernando Santos has been with the team for three years and is known for his skillful tactics.

    Weaknesses: Portugal played a very defensive type of soccer to win last year's tournament. Portugal will face much more offensive teams during this tournament and won't have the occasion to slowly unfold its careful tactics. In addition to this, the other teams will be prepared for Portugal's restrictive type of soccer. It will be difficult for Portugal to surprise their opponents again and to grow throughout the tournament.

    Expectations: Portugal is probably the strongest team regarding cohesion, experience and discipline. Portugal has some of the world's best players on board and the team's head coach is one of the best of his kind. If the team manages to play more offensively than last year and to start this tournament on a positive note, Portugal would actually be my first candidate to win the 2017 FIFA Confederations Cup.

    Mexico:

    Strengths: Mexicans are very passionate about soccer and will try to win this tournament instead of experimenting with their squad like Germany, preparing for next year's tournament like Russia or just appreciating to take part in this tournament as underdogs like New Zealand. Mexico has a winning attitude and the right balance between internationally successful and experienced veteran players like Marco Fabian, Andres Guardado and Javier ''Chicharito'' Hernandez and strong players from the Mexican league such as Jurgen Damm, Hirving Lozano and Oribe Peralta.

    Weaknesses: Right after this tournament, Mexico is going to take part in the 2017 CONCACAF Gold Cup which is a very important local tournament. The Mexicans will be particularly motivated to win this tournament since it's taking place in the country of its biggest rival, the United States of America. It's questionable whether the team will have the strength to perform well in both tournaments after a very long season and it's possible that the 2017 CONCACAF Gold Cup could be the team's priority over the 2017 FIFA Confederations Cup. The players might not be able to perform at a top level in this tournament to make sure they will be victorious in the second tournament of the summer.

    Expectations: I think Mexico has a balanced and talented squad that could make it to the finals but due to the fact that they will have to take care of themselves to be in top shape for the 2017 CONCACAF Gold Cup, I think they might lose the final game against Portugal.

    Group B

    Chile:

    Strengths: Chile has a balanced squad consisting of experienced veterans such as goalkeeper Claudio Bravo, midfielder Arturo Vidal, forward Alexis Sanchez and talents from the best Latin American leagues. Spanish coach Juan Antonio Pizzi has only been with the team for a year and a half but has led Chile to an impressive victory in the Copa America Centenario with a crushing 7-0 victory over Mexico and a victory on penalties in the decisive match against Argentina. The new coach has had a rejuvenating, powerful and energizing impact on its squad.

    Weaknesses: Before winning its two South American Championships in 2015 and 2016, Chile hadn't won any important international tournament. The team had rarely been successful when playing against teams outside the Americas. 

    Expectations: My bet is that Chile will finish in the third position. The team has been playing amazing soccer over the past two years but is still lacking experience regarding big international tournaments against the best teams in the world.

    Germany:

    Stregths: The star of this team isn't a player but head coach Joachim Low who has been managing this team for almost eleven years in a very successful way. He is by far the most experienced coach of the tournament. He decided to give his star players some rest and even several younger players are participating in the 2017 FIFA European Under-21 Championship this summer. Several young talents who have earned less than a handful of caps for Germany will be having the unique chance to prove that they deserve to be regular members of an incredibly strong German squad and will be particularly motivated to leave their marks this summer.

    Weaknesses: The coaches have already told the media that each player will play during the tournament. In addition to having a young and inexperienced squad, these line-up and even tactical changes will harm the team's cohesion. The team will have trouble facing more experienced squads who have been playing together for several years.

    Expectations: Germany's young squad is motivated and strong enough to make it to the semi-finals. However, I can't see this team winning against nations such as Mexico and Chile who have brought their regular squads to the tournament. Joachim Low's questionable experiment will end in the semi-finals. Germany will finish fourth.

    Cameroon:

    Strengths: Cameroon is undoubtedly one of Africa's very best teams, consisting of experienced players from all around the world. From a technical point of view, this team has a very solid reputation and many players are particularly skilled.

    Weaknesses: Just like Germany, Cameroon has many young players on board who have earned less than a handful of caps for the team. Among many players performing in international top leagues, some players also earn their money in weaker leagues in Angola, Austria and Norway. One of Cameroon's best players, defender Ambroise Oyongo, has been injured during the preparation of this tournament and will be out of action for about half a year. 

    Expectations: Despite its promising squad consisting of young talents, Cameroon's team just doesn't have the experience to perform successfully against Europe's and South America's best squads. The team won't survive the tough group stage.

    Australia:

    Strengths: Just as in New Zealand, soccer has been becoming more and more popular over the past few years and winning the 2015 AFC Asian Cup has been a reward for the hard and consistent work. Australian head coach Ange Postecoglou has been one of the key elements behind the team's recent successes and has surpassed everyone's expectations since becoming the team's manager four years ago.

    Weaknesses: Experienced players Mile Jedinak and Brad Smith had to withdraw from the squad due to injury. The only truly experienced players left in the squad are already in their thirties. Several young players are lacking experience and are playing in weaker leagues. Two players are even currently unattached.

    Expectations: Australia has the weakest squad of its group. With two key players being injured and leader Tim Cahill already being thirty-seven years old, I just can't see this team advance to the knockout stage. My guess is that Australia will finish last in its group and might even be the worst team of the tournament.

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