Held every other year and featuring continental, World and Olympic champions, the Confederations Cup should be one hell of a competition.
Since its inauguration in 1992 it has become a dress rehearsal for the next hosts of the world cup, and being held in those quiet summer months when there’s no major tournament on, it gives football fans a chance to see the very best of world football. Or does it?
The first three tournaments were held in Saudi Arabia and could hardly be described as featuring from the cream of world football. Known at the time as the King Fahd Cup and featuring the might of Saudi Arabia, the Ivory Coast and the USA, Argentina unsurprisingly finished winners of the then four-team tournament.
By 1995 the tournament had grown to six teams but again bar Argentina and the European Champions Denmark the other four teams were simply there to make up the numbers.
Then in 1997, again held in Saudi Arabia but now known as the FIFA Confederations Cup, the tournament seemed to come of age.
The wonderful Brazil side of 1997 featuring a young Ronaldo as well as the legendary Dunga and the irresistible Denilson tore the others apart with old boy Romario top scorer with 7 goals. The tournament had again expanded, now featuring eight sides but again big names were missing. Where were Argentina? France? Italy?
Mexico ‘99 was similar. A great tournament for the home fans, slaughtering Saudi Arabia 5-1, knocking out arch-rivals the USA in the semis and somehow beating a Brazilian side featuring Ronaldinho in the final. A great time to be a Mexican fan, but still the tournament lacked significance.
And so to Korea and Japan in 2001 where an important international competition would actually be played there the following year.
The FIFA website gives a history of the competition right back to 1992 and describes this tournament as “packed with class sides”. These class sides included South Korea and Japan who admittedly proved themselves worthy of hosting the tournament the following year with substantial performances, however controversial, but can by no means be described as class in the same way that say Brazil or French can. Now they were class sides indeed.
It is hard to deny at the time that no one could have beaten that French team featuring Vieira, Henry, Trezeguet and Pires. But there was no Zidane, no Barthez and the Brazilian squad was little more than a farce. No Ronaldo, Ronaldinho, Roberto Carlos, the list of missing players was endless. And so the tournament was a disappointment with the French easing past Japan in the semis to beat the incredibly underwhelming Brazilians in a final that even the FIFA website refers to as disappointing. Another second-rate tournament with players left out, rested, or even just not turning up.
Onto the now infamous tournament of 2003 in France where the former world champions, humiliated the previous year in a tournament they had walked just four years previous, won yet another trophy in another disappointing competition.
Again light on big names, Thierry Henry showed the world how good he was by scoring plenty of goals against poor opposition; he was crowned player of the tournament as if it was a prize worth taking.
Henry should have taken all the headlines from that tournament but he won’t because during that tournament a player died on the field of play.
Marc Vivien Foe dropped dead in the semi final against Columbia. These unique circumstances led to a sombre end to a tournament at which the French lifted the trophy, but no one really won. Foe had played a significant part in a gruelling yet successful season at Man City that year scoring the last ever goal at Maine Road. The number 23 shirt has been retired by City as a mark of respect and it was rumoured that the Confederations Cup would be named after him.
Six tournaments down the line and we still have this rather pointless competition between two big teams and six usually mediocre ones. Sepp Blatter, FIFA President, sees the competition as his “baby” yet he spends the rest of his working year bemoaning the fact that clubs, European clubs in particular, play too many matches and their players need a rest.
He complains but wants to keep the tournament. Why? Because it’s his creation and it looks good for FIFA and it reflects well on him. Players can only play so many games, that’s why they drop out or refuse to play in such meaningless tournaments. At the end of a long hard season you’re either injured, waiting for an operation, on holiday or just plain knackered. The last thing you want to do is go and play in some glorified pre season friendlies in June!
This year is apparently going to be the best ever, and rightly so, there are more than just the usual two good teams this time around. But is it worth it? If we keep going like this there will be a tournament every summer and believe it or not that’s not what most football fans, want.
The Confederations Cup should be stopped. The way to deal with overplayed players is not by changing calendars that have worked perfectly for years, and its certainly not by creating more tournaments each summer.