2017 FIFA Confederations Cup Preview

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"The logo for the 2017 FIFA Confederations Cup, which will kick off in Russia on June 17th." (Credit to FIFA.com."
“2016 EURO Champions, Portugal, are heavy favorites to win the 2017 FIFA Confederations Cup in Russia.” (Credit to Footy Headlines.)

It may not be the most glamorous tournament in international soccer, but the FIFA Confederations Cup is still a fan favorite among top competitions.

The 2017 edition kicks off on June 17th in Russia, with eight nations looking to hoist the finals trophy on July 2nd. Brazil, winners of the 2013 tournament hosted in their own backyard, did not qualify for this year’s tournament.

As like every soccer competition, us at SportsTalkFeed decided to dive into the eight sides who did qualify for the prestigious competition. We will take a look at how they qualified, but also who are the heavy favorites to win the title.

Here is a closer look at the upcoming FIFA Confederations Cup tournament:

1.) Russia (UEFA): Qualified via hosts of 2018 World Cup. Previous appearances: 0 (debut).
After a sad exit in the Euro’s a year ago, hosts Russia will look to run the table in their own home. Stanislav Cherchesov is in charge of the Russians, who have a lot of experience at their disposal for this tournament. Goalkeeper Igor Akinfeev should be an easy decision in goal, with his 96 caps for the nation. Yuri Zhirkov brings experience defensively, while Zenit teammate Igor Smolnikov is a true professional at 28.
Offensively, 21-year-old Alexsandar Golovin will be  a player to watch in midfield after some intriguing seasons at CSKA Moscov. The four forwards on the roster may have only seven international goals between them, but Krasnodar‘s Feydor Smolov is expected to be the starter up front.

2.) Germany (UEFA): Qualified via winners of 2014 World Cup. Previous appearances: 2.
A favorite to win Group B, Germany’s squad features a lot of youth and excitement for the future. With not a single representative over the age of 30, Germany will look to prove that they are dangerous even without some veteran leadership. Barcelona‘s Marc-Andre ter Stegen leads the keepers with 10 caps, but Kevin Trapp and Bernd Leno are both top European keepers. Jonas Hector leads the defenders with 29 caps, while Joshua Kimmich and Shkodran Mustafi are also expected to start.
Julian Draxler leads the midfield with pace and skill, and will wear the captain armband for this tournament. Lars Stindl, Julian Brandt, and Sebastian Rudy are also Bundesliga regulars that will battle for time. Strikers Sandro Wagner and Timo Werner are coming off superb domestic campaigns.

3.) Australia (AFC): Qualified via winners of 2015 AFC Asian Cup. Previous appearances: 3
Making their fourth appearance in the FIFA Confederations Cup, Australia are looking to make a deep run in the tournament. Ange Postecoglou‘s side features some underrated players with one experienced Aussie in their forward group. 25-year-old Mathew Ryan is the expected starter at goalkeeper, making 32 caps already for Australia. Trent Sainsbury and Ryan McGowan have 42 caps between them, and will be two leaders in the defensive back-line.
31-year-old Mark Milligan is an experienced midfielder, while Huddersfield‘s Aaron Mooy is coming off a promotion camapign to England’s top-flight. Celtic‘s Tom Rogic is coming off a brilliant season with the Scottish Champs, winning the domestic treble. Former Bayer Leverkusen striker Robbie Kruse is an option at forward, but 37-year-old Tim Cahill has 48 international goals inn 96 caps for the SoccerRoos.  

4.) Chile (CONMEBOL: Qualified via winners of 2015 Copa America. Previous appearances: 0 (debut).
Surprisingly, Chile are making their debut in the FIFA Confederations Cup this summer.  Expected to give Germany a run for their money in Group B, Juan Antonio Pizzi‘s side feature some top talent in each line of their starting XI. Despite a dismal debut season in the EPL, Manchester City’s Claudio Bravo has 112 caps for Chile and is still a top keeper. Gonzalo Jara, Gary Medel, and Mauricio Isla all have over 85+ caps at the international level and will be starters defensively for Chile. The star in Chile’s midfield is Bayern Munich’s Arturo Vidal. Even at 30, Vidal still brings a lot of experience and talent in the front of Chile’s attacking front.
UANL‘s Eduardo Vargas is quickly catching up to Alexis Sanchez in goals for Chile, despite making over 30+ fewer appearances. The duo has 69 goals combined between them, but both bring a different element to the attack. Sanchez is a game-changer, while Vargas is a clinical finisher in front of goal. Both will be relied on to score goals if Chile wants to make a real run at the title. 

5.) Mexico (CONCACAF): Qualified via winners of 2015 CONCACAF Cup. Previous appearances: 6.
With his side participating in two major tournament this summer, Juan Carlos Osorio decided to choose a much-stronger squad for Russia’s Confederations Cup. In goal is Guillermo Ochoa, who is coming off relegation with Granada in Spain. 38-year-old Rafa Marquez is the leader of the back-line, with 139 international appearances in his career. 29-year-old Hector Moreno is a pure talent defensively, while Miguel Layun is one of the more entertaining wingbacks in soccer.
Offensively, Mexico brings a lot of talent to the tournament with a couple of standout stars at their disposal. Javier ‘Chicarito’ Hernandez is a true goalscorer, with 47 goals in 91 appearances. Oribe Peralta, Carlos Vela, and Giovani Dos Santos are all threats offensively and should all see time during this competition. 21-year-old Hirving Lozano is a future player to watch, who is on the radar of some of Europe’s biggest sides. 

6.) New Zealand (OFC): Qualified via winners of 2016 OFC Nations Cup. Previous appearances: 3.
On paper, New Zealand are not given much of a chance to make the final in Saint-Petersburg. However, they have the ability to pull a shock or two in Group A. 34-year-old Glen Moss is the most-experienced keeper out of the trio on the roster, with 29 caps. Ipswich‘s Tommy Smyth is a solid defender, while Michael Boxall is also an experienced player in the back-end. Michael McGlinchey is New Zealand’s top midfielder, and will be expected to run the show for the team to get their offense going.
Up top, New Zealand has a pair of strikers that they will rely on for goals. 35-year-old Shane Smeltz has 24 international goals while Leeds United‘s Chris Wood is definitely on the rise. Since joining Leeds in 2015, Wood has scored 40 goals in 80 appearances for the club. I expect the New Zealand captain to add to his 19 international goals this summer. 

7.) Portugal (UEFA): Qualified via winners of 2016 UEFA EURO Tournament. Previous appearances: 0 (debut).
Coming off a EURO title last summer in France, Portugal will also be a favorite to win this summer’s tournament in Russia. With a very talented core group of guys remaining from last year’s title-winning team, Portugal should have zero problem advancing from the group stage. Rui Patricio is 29, and still has a lot of years left to play at the international level. Bruno Alves and Pepe are two experienced defenders for Portugal, but this very well could be their last international competition.
Borussia Dortmund‘s Raphael Guerreiro is a bright talent for the future, while Jose Fonte is a viable option, despite being 33. Joao Moutinho is closing in on 100 caps for Portugal, and should hit that mark this summer. Bernardo Silva, Andre Gomes, and Andre Silva are all young midfielders that all can create numerous opportunities for the rest of the squad. Up top is Cristiano Ronaldo who is coming off a UEFA Champions League crown with Real Madrid. CR7 has 73 international goals for Portugal, and does not show any signs of slowing down.

8.) Cameroon (CAF): Qualified via winners of 2017 African Cup of Nations. Previous appearances: 2.
It could be a tough go-around for Cameroon in Group B, despite being a very athletic bunch. Since the likes of Samuel Eto’o leading the line, Cameroon have had to look for other consistent ways of scoring. At forward, Benjamin Moukandjo and Vincent Aboubakar should both see time after solid domestic campaigns. The duo only has 24 international goals between them, but both are strong finishers and aggressive forces up top. Metz midfielder Georges Mandjeck has 38 caps, and will be relied on by manager Hugo Broos to set an example for the rest of the bunch.
Out of their eight defenders on the roster, five of them have hit double digits in appearances. Ambroise Oyongo leads the way with 29, and is a regular for MLS‘ outfit Montreal Impact. Michael Ngadeu-Ngadjui (14 caps), Adolphe Teikeu (13 caps), and Collins Fai (11 caps) are will be in the running to start alongside Oyongo. Sevilla‘s Fabrice Ondoa has made 31 appearances in-goal, and will get the nod by Broos for this competition.

Overall, this summer’s Confederations Cup should be a dandy for all soccer fans. Germany, Portugal, and Mexico all will be in the running as favorites, while Australia, New Zealand, and Cameroon all look to spoil the party as sleepers.

Be sure to check back on SportsTalkFeed for all the results and news regarding the 2017 FIFA Confederations Cup, which kicks off June 17th.
Writer’s note: Stay tuned here for all of your European football updates. Follow me on twitter, and leave any questions or comments at @lhenry019. Also follow @SportsTalkFeed on twitter as well!

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