FIFA Confederations Cup 2013: Complete Preview for Early-Round Action

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured ColumnistJune 14, 2013

Don't know what to do with yourself with the club seasons done? Not to worry, the 2013 Confederations Cup has you covered.

Pretty much a warm-up event for the hosts of the World Cup, the Confederations Cup takes the most recent winners of international competitions. Although it's not the most prestigious event, the tournament is always enjoyable because it isn't watered down by a bunch of lesser countries.

Here's a quick preview for the 2013 Confederations Cup with a few of the teams and players you need to watch over the next couple of weeks.

When: June 15-30

Where: Brazil

Watch: ESPN and ESPN2

Live Stream: ESPN3

Group A Schedule (times courtesy of ESPN FC)

Date Match Time (ET)
June 15 Brazil vs. Japan 3 p.m.
June 16 Mexico vs. Italy 3 p.m.
June 19 Brazil vs. Mexico 3 p.m.
June 19 Italy vs. Japan 6 p.m.
June 22 Italy vs. Brazil 3 p.m.
June 22 Japan vs. Mexico 3 p.m.

Group A Team to Watch: Mexico

Things are not going well for El Tri right now. Mexico is sitting third in the CONCACAF World Cup qualifying group. Some countries might be satisfied with simply qualifying. Mexico is not one of those countries.

Fans are not satisfied with the team constantly drawing and failing to score goals. They're calling for the head of manager Jose Manuel de la Torre. "Chepo" has said that he will not resign, per Reuters (via Sports Illustrated).

This will be an interesting tournament for El Tri. The squad has more than enough talent to do some damage in its group, even going up against Brazil, Japan and Italy. However, Mexico has been playing well under its potential.

The Confederations Cup could save de la Torre's job if Mexico starts hitting form. On the other hand, it could also be the final nail in the coffin should El Tri put in another run of disappointing results.

Group A Player to Watch: Andrea Pirlo

Italy's match with Mexico will be a momentous occasion for Andrea Pirlo. The 34-year-old midfielder will be playing in his 100th match for the national team. It's a great honor for a player whose talent is matched only by his longevity.

The Confederations Cup is one the last chances fans will get to see of Pirlo playing with Italy in a major tournament. If the Azzurri qualify for the 2014 World Cup, he'll be 35 by the time of the tournament. Cesare Prandelli might choose to play a younger midfielder by then, lest he run into the same problems Marcello Lippi did in 2010 when he relied too heavily on older players.

Pirlo was superb at Euro 2012 and carried that over into the season as he helped lead Juventus to a second straight title. He finished with five goals and seven assists on the season.

It's a joy to watch Pirlo pulling the strings from the midfield. Considering he can't last forever, you should watch as much of him as you can in this tournament.

Group B Schedule

Date Match Time (ET)
June 16 Spain vs. Uruguay 3 p.m.
June 17 Tahiti vs. Nigeria 3 p.m.
June 20 Spain vs. Tahiti 3 p.m.
June 20 Nigeria vs. Uruguay 6 p.m.
June 23 Nigeria vs. Spain 3 p.m.
June 23 Uruguay vs. Tahiti 3 p.m.

Group B Team to Watch: Uruguay

At the 2010 World Cup and 2011 Copa America, Uruguay rivaled only Spain in terms of universal adulation from the footballing world. Fast forward a few years, and Uruguay is having trouble qualifying for the 2014 World Cup.

The team is currently fifth in the CONMEBOL standings. That would earn a playoff against the fifth-place team from Asia. The worrying part is Uruguay is only ahead of Venezuela on goal differential.

You wouldn't think that an attack that uses both Luis Suarez and Edinson Cavani would have problems. As Diego Forlan has aged, though, Uruguay has failed to adjust. Forlan was such a talisman, and now the team can't figure out a way to replace him.

Uruguay has more than enough talent to finish in the top two of the group. The Confederations Cup is a great opportunity for it to get back to its best and start building momentum toward the World Cup.

Group B Player to Watch: Fernando Torres

People can criticize Fernando Torres all they want, but there's no denying he has an innate ability to win things. He's been a part of the Spain squads that won back-to-back European titles and the 2010 World Cup.

He's also won the Champions League and Europa League titles with Chelsea. At Euro 2012, Torres also took home the Golden Boot.

If 2012 was a bad year for Torres, then most players would love to have a season as poor as the 29-year-old striker's.

There's no doubting Torres has gone downhill ever since about the beginning of the 2009-10 season. But he's still a very good striker and always plays well for the Spanish national team.


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