CONFEDERATIONS CUP: Spain and Uruguay Team Previews

ConfederationsCup

GroupB

Spain

La Roja prepares to continue their dominance in world football by winning the 9th edition of the Confederations Cup in Brazil, which will be the third major FIFA tournament trophy.

Spain coach, Vincente was initially tasked with coming up with a provisional, 26-man squad. That squad did not even feature the likes of Michu, who finished the Barclays Premier League season with 18 league goals to finish fifth in the overall scoring standings. With such an obvious selection headache from the get-go, Del Bosque had to cut a further three players which saw three midfielders, Xabi Alonso (Real Madrid), Javi Garcia (Manchester City) and Benat Etxebarria (Real Betis) cut. As Spain continue to assert their dominance on International football, the competition’s importance cannot be understated; and the men included on the roster are vital to this.

Although there seems to be the usual men between the sticks in Iker Casillas, Victor Valdes and Pepe Reina, one man seems to be the odd one out. Casillas has not played ever since he injured his hand and fell out of favor with Real Madrid coach, Jose Mourinho. Del Bosque explains why he has decided to include the veteran even though his addition to the squad has raised a eyebrows, “We’re certain he’s in good form. We spoke in France and since then I haven’t spoken to him, but I’m sure he is fine. He’s one of us.” If the Real Madrid goalkeeper is to make an appearance in this Confederations Cup, it will be his first since January 2013.

While the FIFA World Cup Champions will have a similar starting line-up of defense, question marks remain over who will fill-in should there be an injury. Despite the fact that Alvaro Arbeloa, Gerard Pique, Sergio Ramos and Jordi Alba look poised to start; the only substitute at centre-back is Raul Albiol. Del Bosque will definitely have to look into which defensive midfielder, Javi Martinez or Sergi Busquets will be ready to take over in case of emergency. As for the wing-backs, no such problems exist, as both César Azpilicueta and Nacho Monreal will be ready to deputise.

The only notable absence in midfield would be Xabi Alonso, who misses out due to injury. As this Spain side tends to play with either the 4-3-3 or 4-1-2-1-2, the Real Madrid star represents that midfield lynchpin that will sit back and spray the passes from deep. This means that either one of the aforementioned midfielders in Busquets or Martinez will take his place to accommodate the other attacking midfielders such as Xavi, Cazorla, Silva and more. Therefore, we may see a slightly different tactical approach from the La Roja come the tournament.

In the forwards department, wingers, Jesus Navas and Pedro Rodriguez reprise their roles, and were shoo-ins for the squad. Roberto Soldado, however, turned out to be the surprise inclusion as he ousted the likes of Benat and Garcia. This move by Del Bosque comes as a shock, as he decided to retain the striker from the preliminary squad in spite of the thin midfield area. “You could just as easily ask why we didn’t include [Imanol] Agirretxe, Iago Aspas, Michu. We can’t bring in everybody. We’ve deemed it fit to call up Soldado because he’s had a great season. We’ve called up those players who are going to help us have the best tournament.” As for the other strikers, Fernando Torres and David Villa, it will be an opportunity to rekindle the once deadly pairing that was given a starting berth. The two of them – whether they will be allowed the chance to be on the field together or individually – will be relied on for goals.

With all the players fighting for a spot in the team, Spain will be hoping everything goes according to plan as they aim to retain their 2013 FIFA World Cup crown. In the coming week, the Spain squad will be in the United States to play friendlies against Haiti and the Republic of Ireland in Miami and New York respectively. Spain have been drawn in group B with Tahiti, Uruguay and Nigeria, who will all act as the first test, as they continue their quest to win the FIFA Confederations Cup Brazil 2013.

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Uruguay

Being the reigning Copa America champions and semi-finalists at the most recent World Cup, one would think Uruguay would be a big chance to take out the 2013 Confederations Cup in Brazil But that is far from the case.

Despite a red-hot start to their 2014 World Cup qualifying campaign, where they picked up eleven points from the opening five games, Uruguay have only been able to manage two draws from the following six qualifiers.

And despite making the semi-final at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, Uruguay might not even make it to Rio in 2014. They currently sit in sixth in the standings with only the top-four from CONMEBOL qualifying directly for the World Cup, while fifth plays off against a side from the Asian Federation. Incredible to even ponder.

With relatively the same starting eleven throughout the qualifiers as the winning Copa America squad, many people have been unable to understand why the national team has been so poor in the past twelve months.

Uruguay have been drawn in Group B for the Confederations Cup alongside Spain (European and World Champions), Nigeria (African Champions) and Tahiti (Oceanian Champions). A strong performance and result against Spain in the first group game is important, but it will more than likely come down to their clash with Nigeria as to who progresses along with Spain.

Manager Oscar Washington Tabarez, who has been at the helm since 2007, has named almost the same squad that competed and won the 2011 Copa America, with only Gaston Ramirez and Matias Aguirregaray replacing Sebastian Abreu and Mauricio Victorino.

Serie A 2012-13 top goal-scorer Edinson Cavani and Liverpool striker Luis Suarez will front the Uruguay attack, with the always reliable Diego Forlan to sit behind them. Palermo forward Abel Hernandez also makes it in to the squad as a back-up for the front men.

In the midfield Uruguay will likely feature Diego Perez and Egidio Arevalo Rios in the centre, with Sebastian Eguren and Walter Gargano looking to push for starting berths as well. While Cristian Rodriguez, Alvaro Pereira, Gaston Ramirez, Nicholas Lodeiro and Alvaro Gonzalez are all options on the wings.

In the friendly against France last week Uruguay played with Diego Lugano and Sebastian Coates in the centre of defence, but Diego Godin and Andres Scotti will both be options to partner the captain Lugano. In right full-back position is Maxi Pereira, with Martin Caceres the most likely option on the left. Galatasaray custiodian Fernando Muslera is the only man imaginable to play in goals.

It is a team on paper that can match it with the best in the world, and is capable of making it far in this tournament. But judging by recent form Uruguay may even struggle to pick up a result against Tahiti.

Hopefully, for the sake of the tournament and the countries hopes of qualifying for the 2014 World Cup, that is not the case. Uruguay needs football. And football needs Uruguay.

David Manuca

Click on David’s name above for English news on Uruguayan football @FootballUruguay on Twitter.

BRAZIL AND JAPAN PREVIEW

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