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June 12th, 2013 by Michael Cox
Brazil – best betting odds to win 2.5 from Stan James
The clichéd view of Brazil insists they play free-flowing, attack-minded ‘samba football’ with a plethora of talented attackers, but possess a rather ramshackle defensive unit. Anyone hoping to witness that kind of football from the Confederation Cup hosts will be sorely disappointed, however.
Brazil’s strength is at the back, where they boast the world’s best centre-back in Thiago Silva. The skipper is the perfect partner for David Luiz, who plays a more cultured role alongside. Daniel Alves and either Filipe Luis or Marcelo provide forward energy, while Julio Cesar remains a fine goalkeeper.
In midfield, Felipe Solari appears to favour a double pivot in the centre of the pitch, probably comprising Paulinho and Luis Gustavo. Then, we can expect to see Neymar drifting inside from the left flank to link up with centre-forward Fred.
The problem for Brazil over the past three years has been about the right-sided and central playmakers. Chelsea’s Oscar should play a part, probably in the middle – but on the right Hulk often appears too basic and selfish, although he does possesses an impressive ‘minutes per goal’ record at international level.
Still, PSG’s Lucas Moura might be a better option on the right, to provide Fred with proper service – the centre-forward is in fine form at international level and should be a contender for the Golden Boot.
Spain – best betting odds to win 2.75 from William Hill
There’s a strange contradiction about this Spanish side: Vicente del Bosque has never had a stronger squad during his five-year spell in charge – the likes of Juan Mata and Javi Martinez have turned from reliable back-ups to genuinely world-class footballers, while Cesar Azpilicueta and Nacho Monreal have improved significantly at Champions League clubs.
But Del Bosque’s starting XI feels weaker than ever before, too. There’s a real problem upfront, with neither David Villa nor Fernando Torres close to their peak form. “For a while now, possibly out of our own fault, we have not found a centre-forward that we have all liked,” Del Bosque admits. Meanwhile, Xavi Hernandez – arguably Spain’s key player over the past five years – has endured a disappointing campaign.
Del Bosque is also forced to cope with Xabi Alonso in the centre of his midfield. He has two possible solutions – he can play Sergio Busquets as the sole holding midfielder and introduce another creative midfielder, or use Javi Martinez alongside Busquets. The former system would be more exciting – and might allow Mata or Cesc Fabregas to start, which would be useful in compensating for the lack of goals upfront.
Italy – best betting odds to win 8.0 from BoyleSports
Cesare Prandelli isn’t a classic Italian tactician, focusing upon a positive style of play and giving his attackers creative freedom to play as they wish, rather than focusing upon specific formations and reacting to the opposition. He’s now at a stage when the overall identity of the team is obvious, and Prandelli must find his best starting XI.
Having experimented with a 3-5-2 at the start of Euro 2012, Prandelli now appears to favour either a 4-3-3 or a 4-3-1-2, depending upon his preferred attacking trident. Italy don’t have a world-class ‘trequartista’ to roam between the lines and base their attacking play around – Riccardo Montolivo performed well there last summer, but has played a much deeper role for Milan this season.
Mario Balotelli’s red card in the qualifying draw against the Czech Republic last weekend might tempt Prandelli to leave him on the bench, but Italy lack genuine options upfront – and if Stephan El Shaarawy continues to play as the second striker, keeping an all-Milan forward duo makes sense. Expect Prandelli to chop and change throughout the tournament.
Uruguay – best betting odds to win 12.0 from Betway
There’s no doubt that Oscar Tabarez’s side are in the easier of the two groups, but Uruguay’s form since winning the Copa America two years ago has been extremely disappointing.
Tabarez has rarely been able to accommodate Diego Forlan, Luis Suarez and Edinson Cavani successfully in the same starting XI, and while Suarez and Cavani are, at this point, clearly the better two players, Forlan plays a deeper role theoretically offers the better partner for the other two. Still, his form has declined significantly, and Uruguay have often lacked cohesion between midfield and attack.
Although Tabarez has experimented with a single holding midfielder, he usually uses a solid holding midfield duo – regardless of the shape of the rest of the side. This means Uruguay generally resemble something like a 4-4-1-1 – they spend a lot of time without the ball, and depend on energetic wide midfielders to charge upfront and support the front two.
Cavani has generally been the man omitted upfront, but his crucial winner in Tuesday’s qualifying win at Venezuela – when Suarez was suspended – emphasises his quality and might convince Tabarez to play him. But does Tabarez drop Forlan or Suarez, or change his formation?
Mexico – best betting odds to win 20.0 from Betfair
Mexico were sporadically impressive at World Cup 2010, and won the Gold Cup the following year with a sensational 4-2 victory over the USA in a brilliant final.
However, Mexico have changed significantly since then – while previously based around fluidity and flexibility in formations, new coach Jose Manuel de la Torre has introduced a cagier, more defensive playing style. Amazingly, from their nine matches in 2013, eight have been draws, with only a 1-0 victory over Jamaica breaking the pattern. Five 0-0s during that period (including against relative minnows Costa Rica and Panama this week) underlines the feeling that Mexico have become too cautious.
The defensive base of the side is certainly impressive, and Mexico have individuals like Giovani dos Santos, Andres Guardado and Javier Hernandez who can provide a burst of pace and directness on the break. De La Torre could do with Carlos Vela, absent from the national side for years following a breach of discipline, to provide another counter-attacking threat, however.
In all, it’s difficult to see why Mexico are so short considering they’re in the tricky-looking Group A – Japan are probably a better side, and represent much better value.
Nigeria – best betting odds to win 57.0 from Betfair
Nigeria were extremely impressive in winning the Africa Cup of Nations earlier this year, but they’re without two key players that thrived in Stephan Keshi’s 4-3-3 system – centre-forward Emmanuel Emenike, and winger Victor Moses.
In a side that lacks outright midfield creativity, Keshi depended upon talented individuals who could make the difference in the final third, and Nigeria might lack raw quality going forward. CSKA winger Ahmed Musa is likely to play a crucial role – he offers raw speed on the right, which would allow Ideye Brown to move inside and become the main centre-forward.
John Obi Mikel is best known as a solid, dependable but slightly uninspiring holding midfielder at Chelsea, but for his national side he plays a much more creative role, spraying forward passes from the central midfield zone towards the wingers on the break. Ogenyi Onazi and Sunday Mba will probably complete the midfield trio, but it’s difficult to see Nigeria outplaying opponents – aside from Tahiti.
Japan – best betting odds to win 76.0 from Betfair
The dark horses of the tournament. They start the competition with a tricky match against hosts Brazil, but it feels like the opening match of international tournaments often produces a surprise – and Japan have both the organisation and the technical qualities to have a decent run at the Confederations Cup.
They’re certainly in the trickier of the two groups, but there’s a great cohesion about Alberto Zaccheroni’s side, which remains familiar from the XI that triumphed in the 2011 Asian Cup.
The defence is solid enough, and features two excellent attacking full-backs in Yuto Nagatomo and Atsuto Uchida – they overlap in advance of the holding midfield duo, the underrated deep-lying passer Makoto Hasebe, and the more workmanlike Yasuhito Endo.
Keisuke Honda and Shinji Kagawa are two outstanding playmakers, and the major question mark is upfront. Shinji Okazaki is likely to start wide, charging into the middle to assist Ryoichi Maeda. Their international scoring record is good, but can they provide regular goals against top-level sides? Japan often lack efficiency upfront – but they’re capable of controlling games, and are a decent outside bet.
Tahiti – best betting odds to win 5001 from SkyBet
Tahiti’s three games – and it will be only three – should provide a spectacular mismatch in abilities. The minnows overcame New Zealand and New Caledonia to win last year’s OFC Nations Cup, and entirely merit their place in the competition – but they’re unquestionably the weakest side in the history of the Confederations Cup.
The squad features four brothers – the Tehaus, two of whom (twins Alvin and Lorenzo) were once sent off together in the same U20 World Cup match. Their sole professional player is Marama Vahiura, a 33-year-old Ligue 1 veteran who has only recently decided to commit to his national side.
Vahiura is their sole chance of scoring a goal – Betfair is running a market on whether they’ll find the net at all. ‘No’ is currently odds-on, which accurately sums up their chances.
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