Paul Marcuccitti is a passionate
soccer fan from Australia who will share his views about the World Cup in this column.
Read earlier columns
The World Cup you have when you’re not having a World Cup
So the Confederations Cup is getting underway in Germany. Of course you can
follow all the action at www.planetconfederationscup.com which will have
previews, predictions, results, statistics and insightful commentary from
some of our sport’s best Internet columnists.
I know you’re just buzzing with anticipation. Who will win? Brazil?
Argentina? Germany? Could Australia or Tunisia shock the world? You just
can’t sleep while you’re contemplating it all.
In fact … you probably can. Perhaps you’re sleeping better than ever because
you think the Confederations Cup is one giant yawn. [Oh, and by the way, I
hope you didn’t fall for my gag by trying to find the website in the opening
In theory, the Confederations Cup is more élite than the FIFA World Cup –
only eight teams and most had to win a continental championship to get
there. In practice, it’s barely a half-serious tournament.
Can you name the winners of the previous six tournaments? I can’t believe
I’m about to admit this but I actually had to look one up! Yet all these
tournaments have occurred in the last decade and a half. If, however, you
ask me who won the 1930 World Cup (43 years before I was born), I wouldn’t
just give you the answer, I’d give you a brief match report as well. There’s
a good chance that you could too.
In past columns, I have paid some (often tongue-in-cheek) respect to the
Confederations Cup but that’s partly because I’m an Australian who is
desperate to talk up anything that my country might have achieved on the
football pitch. There is certainly some pride in the fact that the Socceroos
were runners-up in 1997 and third in 2001 (with wins over France and
Brazil). But if that doesn’t impress you out there in the rest of the world,
rest assured that I wouldn’t have to conduct a survey to find that 99.9% of
all Australian football fans would have traded those efforts for
qualification for the World Cup finals. Yeah, we know what matters most.
Indeed, the Confederations Cup presents a no-win outcome for the Aussies. If
we flop, it’s just confirmation that we’re no good. If we perform
brilliantly then it’s a case of “it’s only the Confederations…”, a sentiment
that would be compounded if the Socceroos again fail to qualify for the big
party in a year’s time.
In 1997, Australia’s effort in reaching the Final came just weeks after the
heartbreaking World Cup qualifier debacle against Iran. Sure, we were
pleased when Harry Kewell scored a golden goal winner in the semi-final
(against Uruguay) but it wasn’t exactly break-out-the-champagne time. Aussie
football fans were a bit too numb for that. (Hey I’m getting good at saying
football instead of soccer!) And if we celebrated hard after defeating
France and Brazil in the 2001 edition, it only turned to tears a few months
later when we lost the decisive World Cup qualifier – in Uruguay.
FIFA elegantly showed how “no-win” the Confederations Cup can be after the
most recent tournament in 2003. New Zealand had qualified as the Oceania
champions but the Kiwis struggled and returned home with a goal difference
of -10. Soon, FIFA withdrew the automatic qualifying spot for the World Cup
finals that it had awarded Oceania only months earlier and one of the
reasons/excuses given was that New Zealand’s Confederations Cup effort
showed that a guaranteed place for Oceania wasn’t merited.
Now, I’m not naïve enough to think that the qualification place would have
remained intact if the Kiwis had done well but it just goes to show that you
can get little credit for your successes and plenty of criticism for your
shortcomings at the Confederations Cup. Needless to say, that’s a reality
for most of the teams in Germany at the moment.
The history of the Confederations Cup is something comparable to the history
of aviation before the Wright brothers. And one wonders if it will ever
really get off the ground. Apathy has been a constant and that apathy
remains the key contributor to the competition’s lack of success.
Germany, host of this year’s tournament, “qualified” for the last edition in
2003 as World Cup runner-up but decided not to compete. The Germans also
decided against playing in 1997 when they were champions of Europe. France,
winner of the 2001 and 2003 Confederations Cups, opted out of the 1999
tournament, a year after winning the World Cup.
Even FIFA – which now uses the Confederations Cup as part of its attempt to
unceasingly raise revenue – was slow to get on board. Its website suggests
that there have been six previous tournaments. The truth is that the first
two editions (1992 and 1995) weren’t driven by the sport’s governing body.
Most of the early initiative came from Saudi Arabia (which hosted the
competition in 1992, ’95 and ’97). The 1997 tournament was the first to be
labelled the “FIFA Confederations Cup”. FIFA’s website pays only tacit
recognition to the concept’s history: The King Fahd Cup, as the tournament
was originally called….
The 1997 tournament was the first to adopt the eight team format in which
the eight teams are: the six champions from each confederation; the World
Cup champion; and the tournament host. Extra places have opened up if teams
qualified in two different ways (e.g. Saudi Arabia hosted the ’97 tournament
and was champion of Asia, so United Arab Emirates, runners-up in the Asian
Nations Cup, “replaced” Saudi Arabia as the Asian representative).
A long-running farce regarding the proposed date of the 1999 tournament led
to FIFA fixing subsequent tournaments at the close of the European season
(i.e. June). But the tournament’s credibility remains low.
The main problem the Confederations Cup has is TMF – Too Much Football. It’s
one of the contributing factors to the Ronaldo saga of recent weeks. The
Golden Boot winner from Korea/Japan wanted a break and opted out of the
tournament despite pressure from coach Carlos Alberto Parreira. Now,
whatever you think of Ronaldo’s position on the issue, there’s no escaping
the fact that any Brazilian international playing club football in Europe
would have been eligible for the World Cup finals, in between regular
seasons, in 2002, the Confederations in 2003, the Copa America in 2004, the
Confederations again this year and the World Cup finals again next year.
Meanwhile, the regular season is packed with domestic and European matches
and several trips back home for CONMEBOL’s ridiculous World Cup qualifying
Even Australia’s coach, Frank Farina, didn’t kick up a fuss about the fact
that two important midfielders, Marco Bresciano and Vince Grella, were
retained by Italian club Parma so they could compete in relegation playoffs.
When you consider that Farina’s position is under pressure, you might expect
that he’d fight for those players’ availability. Why didn’t he? Because he
knows that he’s really going to want them for World Cup qualifiers. No point
having a fight about it now and running the risk of club versus country rows
later this year. It’s only the Confederations Cup…
That’s not to say that Farina and the Socceroos won’t want to do well at
this tournament. But the problem is that the Confederations means different
things to different people. Countries like Australia, Tunisia and Japan will
want to try and prove that they can compete with the cream of international
football. On the other hand, I’d be surprised if Brazil and Argentina (who
are both “resting” players) regard the competition as a litmus test. The
World Cup is international football’s Holy Grail and no one will be “rested”
Germany might actually be the most interesting team to follow over the next
couple of weeks, mainly because the team has, by its lofty standards,
struggled for nearly a decade. Forget the surprise visit to the Korea/Japan
Final, the Germans’ woes at Euro 2000 and 2004 more accurately reflect where
they’re at. With 12 months of Friendlies before they host the World Cup
Finals, this tournament should be a useful hit out for them.
But it would take something special to make the Confederations Cup a truly
coveted trophy, something that would show fans that it really means a lot to
all the teams and players. If managed properly, it could really be the World
Cup you have when you’re not having a World Cup. It’s debatable whether or
not it deserves that status now.
TMF dents the Confederations Cup’s credibility. A good solution would be to
hold it once every four years instead of once every two. Now, I know that
some confederations hold a nations’ championship every two years but, if
they had two different champions in a four year cycle, the issue could be
settled with a simple play-off. (Better still, force every confederation to
hold its nations’ championship once every four years!)
It’s more wishful thinking on my behalf because until a Confederations Cup
loses a lot of money, nothing is going to change. Quality continues to give
way to quantity.
Naturally I’ll still be kicking every ball with the Socceroos over the next
couple of weeks. I’ll wake up at ridiculous hours, up my caffeine
consumption and sit glued to the television set as the pictures are beamed
from Germany. But if I could be given the choice between Confederations Cup
success and qualification for the World Cup finals, which do you think I’d
Info on how
the World Cup was founded and about the trophy as well.
on every match in every tournament.
Interesting columns about the past, present and future of the World Cup.
with appearances in the World Cup. Detailed info on every country.
of many of the most influential players in history.
An A-Z collection
of strange and different stories in World Cup history.
A big collection
of various statistics and records.
since it was introduced in 1966.
knowledge about the WC. Three different levels. No prizes, just for fun.
lots of stuff. For instance Best Goals, Best Players and Best Matches.
of links to other soccer sites with World Cup connection.
and buttons for you to link to us if you want.
A little information
on who keeps this site available.