The Confederations Cup has come and gone, but it has left us with memories, introduced new stars to the world stage and whetted our appetite for next year’s World Cup. Russia have also shown their hospitality and readiness to welcome the world. A total of 43 goals were scored and every team managed to register at least a goal in the competition. Unarguably, the biggest winners in Russia were the Germans, while the Chileans and Portuguese also had a commendable tournament.
Germany beat Chile on Sunday night to win their first ever Confederations Cup and just about the only trophy missing in their cabinet.
What made the victory very impressive was the fact that they brought a largely untested and youthful squad to Russia, with star players like Manuel Neuer, Jerome Boateng, Mesut Ozil, Toni Kroos and Thomas Muller all left at home. They recently won the European Under-21 Championship and four players from the starting line-up in their 1-0 final win over Chile would have been eligible for that tournament. This is a wonderful time for ‘die maanschaft’ as they basically won the tournament with a second-string side which shows the abundance of quality talent at their disposal.
They won it in very impressive fashion, winning four and drawing one of the five matches they played, scoring twelve goals and conceding five (just once in the knock out stages). Joachim Low’s decision to use this team and rest the regulars has paid off and has also given him a dilemma for the selection of his final squad for next year’s world Cup, if they qualify. He is one of the most brilliant coaches in world football, but doesn’t get the recognition he deserves. FIFA’s initial disappointment of Low’s decision will have turned to a pleasant surprise as it has unearthed and introduced new exciting talents to the consciousness of a larger audience.
Chileans are having a tough time in their World Cup qualifying campaign, but their performance at this competition should give them the needed boost to finish that campaign on a high and come back to Russia next year. They showed that they can compete with the best and also how experienced and difficult they are to beat in a tournament. They won only one game in open play and didn’t lose until the final game. Claudio Bravo also reminded the watching world of his quality after his nightmarish season in England with Manchester City.
Portugal had a decent tournament and it took the lottery of penalty kicks to deny them a place in the final, they however compensated for that disappointment by winning the third-place game against Mexico. Ronaldo was a key figure for them, but his interest in the tournament ended after their semi-final loss to Chile as he was allowed to leave the team and meet his twins, who were birthed during the competition. New AC Milan signing, Andre Silva also showed us a glimpse of his goal scoring prowess, while the likes of Pepe, Bruno Alves and Jose Fonte all showed that they were still able of mixing it up against younger attackers despite their veteran status.
We also saw other veterans make appearances in Russia, as the likes of Tim Cahill and Rafael Marquez showed that age is just a number with assured and solid performances for their teams. Russia seems to be ready to host the world next year and from what we’ve seen so far, attendance will not be affected by the performance of the host nation. We will now start ticking off the dates on our calendars as we wait with excitement for the World Cup 2018.