Years that end in an even number are great, aren’t they? They are for football fans anyway, who know that once the club season is over they still have a summer packed with the joys of the beautiful game; either a European Championship or a World Cup to savour.
Generally, odd numbered years are a bit of a let-down, and a summer without any meaningful football to wager upon creates some pretty powerful feelings of longing amongst punters.
Well, the good news is that 2017 is set to be different….for a couple of weeks anyway. This year we have the Confederations Cup to look forward to; a strange tournament but one blessed with plenty of quality players and a fairly prestigious trophy to boot.
It might not feature highly on any player’s ‘to do’ list, particularly when a summer holiday looks so appealing, but that matters not: some of the best players on the planet will be on show in Russia from June 17-July 2.
So what do punters need to know?
Confederations Cup 2017….What’s It All About?
The Confederations Cup is made up of eight teams and will be hosted by Russia in what will be something of a warm-up event to the World Cup they will also host in 2018.
They qualify automatically as do the reigning World Cup champions, who are Germany. The other six nations will take their place based on their performances in the various Confederations qualification events, namely:
- Portugal – Euro 2016
- Australia – Asian Cup
- Chile – Copa America
- Mexico – CONCACAF Cup
- New Zealand – OFC Nations Cup
- Cameroon – African Cup of Nations
These eight have been split into two groups of four; Russia, Portugal, New Zealand and Mexico in Group A, and Germany, Australia, Chile and Cameroon in Group B. The teams will play each other in the standard round robin format, with the top two from each group progressing to the semi-finals.
A tournament like this that would be considered a non-major will naturally have varying degrees of interest amongst the participants, and that is reflected in the team news from the varying camps.
The big news is that Cristiano Ronaldo will play some part in Portugal’s assault on the trophy. He has been selected alongside the likes of Pepe, Nani, Ricardo Quaresma and Joao Moutinho in what is a strong Portuguese squad.
Germany, meanwhile, have gone for a rather more untested set of players. The likes of Manuel Neuer, Jerome Boateng, Toni Kroos, Mesut Ozil and Thomas Muller have all been rested, with seven previously uncapped players selected. The Germans will be pinning their hopes on the likes of Julian Draxler, Leroy Sane and Joshua Kimmich.
Alexis Sanchez has been included in the Chile squad and will play for his country for the fourth consecutive summer – Arsene Wenger must be delighted with that, while Mexico can call upon the goals of Javier Hernandez, Raul Jimenez and Carlos Vela should they wish.
Given the paucity of their squad, it is something of a surprise to still see Germany listed as favourites at 9/4 to lift the trophy. Their inexperienced squad will face stiff competition from Portugal (5/2) and Chile (11/4), who won a highly competitive Copa America Centenario just last summer.
The Chileans are perhaps the best bet at the prices. They should glide through Group B, possibly as runners up, and that offers punters a one-in-four shot of them going on to win the lot. They have experience in big matches now, and many of their players ply their club trade in Europe, so playing in Russia will be no big deal.
With Group A much tougher to call – Portugal should go through along with Mexico or Russia, who we expect to improve exponentially on home soil compared to their woeful Euro 2016 efforts, sticking with Chile in a group they may well win ahead of a youthful German side is the smart betting value here.