Barstool’s Confederations Cup Preview – “Ronnie & Lexi & Puty, Oh My”
Sam’s Soccer Safe Space For Stoolies
Not the international soccer tournament you want, the international soccer tournament you got… so in that spirit this is not the preview you want, it’s the preview you got.
For those of you who might be new to jogo bonito and thus wondering what exactly the Confederations Cup even is, think of it is as a beta test edition of the 2018 World Cup. It involves eight nations and four stadia but is hosted by Puty’s Russkis and is essentially a dry run for next year’s big boy tournament (involving 32 nations and 10 stadia).
Quick and dirty Q&A:
“How prestigious is the Confederations Cup?”
The obvious answer is “not that important” since the US is not involved… but in truth it’s not THAT important. In terms of prestige, let’s call it a “Tier 2b” tournament. Tier 1 is World Cup. There is one and only one and as the siren of our time Sinead O’Connor once said nothing [else] compares. Tier 2a involves continental competitions like the EUROs and Copa America, Tier 2b is Confed Cup, and Tier 2c is AFCON and Gold Cup. (And yes, it does feel kinda wrong to put those last two in the same tier considering only one of them features teams like Curaçao and Martinique – hint for the geographically challenged amongst us: those are tiny islands in the Caribbean, at least I’ve always assume that’s what they are.)
I’m just making this up off the cuff and you could make plenty of arguments for why Confederations Cup is more or less important than what I am suggesting, but I’m putting it below Tier 2a because the level of competition is a bit lower and also because nations often use it as an opportunity to try out new players and formations, so all in all the point is it’s not as important as World Cup but still well worth watching.
“How did countries qualify?”
Puty’s Russkis qualified automatically after paying FIFA’s executive committee off with the most money and HJs to be awarded host of the 2018 big boy tournament. The other seven nations include the six that won their confederation champions plus Ze Germans, the 2014 World Cup Champions.
“Who is going to win?”
Just chill out man, we will get to that. An interesting note is who is NOT going to win the Confederations Cup: Brazil, which will feel a bit strange since they are the three-time defending champions at the moment (2005, 2009 and 2013) but, alas, did not qualify this time around after crashing out of last summer’s Copa America.
By the way, as for the teams that did make it, here are the odds for the field to lift the trophy on July 2:
“What is the most interesting subplot?”
The battle of wills between Puty’s police state and the bloodthirsty hooligans… my guess is that, as in all other arenas of life, Puty will emerge victorious.
“How much research did you do for this blog?”
Slightly more than none, but only ever so slightly.
Now without further ado, let’s get to the preview…
As a refresher, the field is split into Group A and Group B. After a round-robin portion wherein the four teams in each group play the other three, the top two teams from each advance to the knockout stage. The top four then play in the semi-finals (June 28/29) and then the final (July 2)… and, of course, there is an asinine third place game (July 2) since, after all, FIFA is all about that cheddar, boss.
FIFA World Ranking: 8
Much of the team that “DOMINATED” the EURO 2016 tourney last summer are coming back for more in Putyville. By “DOMINATED”, of course, I mean squeak by every game by the hair on their chinny chin chin. Beautiful, the performances were not, but last time I checked winning is winning and that’s what Portugal found a way to do. They won’t have to duck and cover nearly as much against the likes of the Russkis and New Zealand, and they have enough talent in midfield (and some dude named Ronnie) to keep things close against anybody in the field. They should also benefit from being drawn in the comparatively weaker group, giving them a notable advantage over the other favorites (eg, Germany and Chile).
FIFA World Ranking: 17
Lots of attacking talent. Chicarita will join the team fully rested after being too scared to show up for the USA game last week, and if you haven’t heard of Pachuca’s Hirving Lozano yet you will soon because the 21-year-old is a stud who will likely be playing in Europe next season. Two caveats: Mexico is essentially splitting its squad up in order to try and compete in both the Confederations Cup and Gold Cup (latter starts just days after former finishes up), and defense will be an issue against the better teams, but shouts to Juan Carlos Osorio for once again picking Pube Puff Ochoa for the squad.
FIFA World Ranking: 63
Host nations typically do well in this type of tournament but it is hard to get too excited about the roster the Russkis have put together. They will be missing some of their better players through injury (eg, Alan Dzagoev, Roman Zobnin and Artyom Dzyuba) and are in the midst of transitioning from the old guard that did not distinguish themselves at EURO 2016 and new guard that have yet to prove themselves.
FIFA World Ranking: 95
Gritty team. Lacking talent. But lots of grit. But not a ton of talent. Very gritty though.
June 17: Putyville vs. New Zealand, 10am CT (FS1)
June 18: Portugal vs. Mexico, 10am CT (FS1)
June 21: Russia vs. Portugal, 10am CT (FS1)
June 21: Mexico vs. New Zealand, 1pm CT (FS1)
June 24: Mexico vs. Russia, 10am CT (FOX)
June 24: New Zealand vs. Portugal, 10am CT (FS1)
~~SHOTS IN THE DARK~~
GROUP A WINNER: Portugal
Too big. Too strong. Too fast. Too much Ronnie.
Mexico did not look too terribly impressive against Bruce’s Boys last week, but as much I am hate to give them much/any credit, they are on a different level talent-wise than the depleted Russkis and gritty Kiwis.
FIFA World Ranking: 3
Odds on favorites to win the whole damn thing, I’m not quite as high on Ze Germans this time around. Sure, sure, the country boasts a list of superstars that is tough to beat. Toni Kroos, Thomas Muller, Jerome Boateng, Marco Reus, Mats Hummels, Mesut Ozil, Leroy Sane, Mario Gotze, Julian Weigl and Manuel Neuer just to name a few. Here’s a little secret though: not a single one of those players are on the Confederations Cup roster. They are instead bringing an incredibly young squad – which does NOT mean they will be short on talent – but the team is lacking in international experience. The Julians (Draxler and Brandt) should be a fun duo to watch in midfield but I can’t help thinking that Germany – for once – may struggle a bit… if only in a relative sense since anything short of winning a competition is considered struggling for Der Mannschaft. [Important reminder: having said all that, doubt Germany at your own peril. (Just ask France.)]
FIFA World Ranking: 4
Lexi Sanchez has been resting for the past 10 months and, assuming he can shake off the rust, should be in the form of his life. Don’t be fooled though, the team has a lot more quality than just the future Bayern Munich star, and unlike Germany the team is not at all lacking in international experience.
FIFA World Ranking: 32
If you are looking for some Samuel Eto’o-like names on the roster you will be disappointed. The Indomitable Lions – aka every hipsters favorite team – were underdogs in the African Cup of Nations but gelled well and, with luck, could do a little damage in this tourney. Striker Christian Bassogogare of Henan Jianye (Chinese Super League) was the best player at AFCON last summer and is a player to watch this time around… and he may need to be in peak form based on Cameroon’s form in a recent friendly where they got their asses handed to them 0-4 by Colombia. Cause for concern or wakeup call? We’re about to find out.
FIFA World Ranking: 48
Gritty team. Lacking talent. But lots of grit. But not a ton of talent. Very gritty though. Not quite as gritty as New Zealand. But also not quite as lacking in talent. (Shouts to my guy Tom Rogic from Celtic, who hopefully does not get passed over for playing time by aging dinosaur Tim – don’t call me Gary – Cahill.)
June 18: Cameroon vs. Chile, 1pm CT (FS2)
June 19: Australia vs. Germany 10am CT (FS1)
June 22: Cameroon vs. Australia, 10am CT (FS1)
June 22: Germany vs. Chile, 1pm CT (FS1)
June 25: Germany vs. Cameroon, 10am CT (FOX)
June 25: Chile vs. Australia, 10am CT (FS1)
~~SHOTS IN THE DARK~~
GROUP B WINNER: CHILE
Chile has the most dangerous forward pairing in the tournament in Lexi and Eduardo Vargas, the most versatile midfielder and best Ferrari driver in Arturo Vidal, and an experienced backline. Assuming Claudio Bravo plays like Chilean Claudio Bravo and not Manchester City’s Claudio Bravo, this team is going to be an extremely tough out.
Definitely going out on a limb with this one (and pre-emptively blaming not doing much research when Germany wins every game 5-0 and lifts the damn trophy per usual), especially with how bad Cameroon looked against Colombia. Thus, yes, the Africans will need some serious luck to advance but they do have some low key thicc talent and should benefit from bringing a more seasoned squad with them to Putyville.
EXTREMELY PREMATURE, HIGHLY SPECULATIVE BRACKET
I’ll probably come back with a follow-up blog when the field is whittled down to the final four, but for the sake of argument I’m going to pencil in PORTUGAL vs CAMEROON and CHILE vs MEXICO in as the two semi-finals.
If the suns and the moons align and that actually happens, I’ll take a wild stab and say that Ronnie and Lexi carry their respective teams into the final where La Roja’s depth (as well as Ronnie’s gruelling schedule and injuries in Portugal’s backline) make the difference.
Speculative Champion: CHILE
Friendly reminder: the 2017 Gold Cup begins on July 7. Also, in case you thought I was going to opine upon the rumors of Ronnie’s “impending departure” from Real Madrid – you must be new here. Here are my thoughts on this and every single other transfer rumor that has been or ever will be making the rounds (99.9999% of which were manufactured by either an agent to increase leverage in negotiations or by a little J journo to sell a paper/get dat retweet):
Ps: I’d be shocked if Ronnie goes anywhere this summer.