THE six FIFA confederation championship winners join hosts Russia and world champions Germany in the scrap to claim Confederations Cup glory this summer. International football fanatic Mark O’Haire (@MarkOHaire) shares his thoughts on Group B.
Confederations Cup | Group B | 18th-25th June 2017 | ITV
*Odds in brackets beside nation's represent the best price available on winning the group.
Australia (18/1 888)
Australia become the first nation to represent two confederations when the Asian Cup winners from 2015 take their place at the Confederations Cup. But all isn’t sunshine and blue skies for the Socceroos heading to Russia.
A chastening 4-0 thumping by a Neymar-less Brazil in their final fixture before the tournament is a stinging reality check for a side desperate to ascent the international football ladder. Dismantled by the Samba Boys in Melbourne, head coach Ange Postecoglou is bracing himself for further stiff tests here.
The Australian boss blamed himself for his team’s second-half surrender to the Selecao in a game that came soon after a vital 3-2 home triumph over Saudi Arabia in World Cup qualifying. The success keeps the Socceroos in the hunt but it was her unconvincing display from a team that has laboured against Asian opponents they once dominated.
The core of the Asian Cup-winning team remains in place, partly because the younger generation has failed to follow in the footsteps of their predecessors, who cut their teeth in Europe's top leagues. Tim Cahill remains both an indispensable part of Postecoglou's plans and a symbol of Australia's inability to produce a goal-scoring successor to the 37-year-old veteran.
Postecoglou has tried to wring goals out of a new 3-2-4-1 formation but no amount of tactical acumen could make up for the gulf in class between Brazil and the ‘roos and with captain Mile Jedinak ruled out of the Confederations Cup, Australia’s thin squad will be stretched to the limit.
Cameroon (8/1 SkyBet)
Cameroon were surprising 2017 African Cup of Nations winners at the start of 2017 to secure their position as Africa’s representative at this summer’s tournament. It was a remarkable achievement considering the chaos and unrest surrounding the national side over the past few years.
The Indomitable Lions were without many top European-based players in Gabon but defied the doubters with a measured and organised approach from Belgian boss Hugo Broos. The former defender only arrived at the start of 2016 but has overseen an impressive resurgence.
Christian Bassogog – a speedy and skilful 21-year-old winger – stole the show and the creative attacker will be the go-to man for Cameroon whilst Vincent Aboubakar’s physical presence should ensure the Africans ruffle a few feathers.
However, since their continent success in February, familiar wrangles over the non-payment of bonuses has hampered progress and a home defeat to Guinea in a friendly has raised doubts over their ability and even participation by some within the camp.
Colombia humped the Indomitable Lions 4-0 in their final tune-up match, managing just one shot on-target. But little should be read into that encounter with Broos resting the majority of his regulars following their 1-0 win over Morocco in the 2019 Nations Cup qualifiers whilst Robert Ndip Tambe was sent off.
Chile (7/4 Stan James)
After 99 years of hurt, Chile finally secured silverware by taking the 2015 Copa America title. As like London busses, a second Copa America title followed just a year later with tournament favourites Argentina beaten on penalties on both occasions.
Juan Antonio Pizzi replaced Jorge Sampaoli last year to oversee the most recent competition success and has impressed in his approach. Keeping La Roja well organised, the ex-Valencia boss has maintained the suffocating high-pressing model implemented by Marcelo Bielsa and refined by Sampaoli.
A few youngsters have been added to the group in order to preserve the successful recipe of high-tempo, quick passing football but an experienced core throughout this squad with 11 players boasting more than a half-century of international caps.
World Cup qualification hasn’t been smooth – Chile have lost five of their 14 games and worryingly picked up just one point from five games as guests – whilst their condition has to be questioned with the Confederations Cup being the fourth successive summer of action involving La Roja.
Nevertheless, South American sides often excel in this competition and with Alexis Sanchez and Arturo Vidal both on national duty, we should expect a strong showing from the Chileans.
Germany (6/5 Winner)
Germany have never lifted the Confederations Cup and I wouldn’t be rushing in to back the world champions this time around having heard Joachim Low’s assessment of the competition.
The World Cup-winning coach openly criticised the tournament has opted to use the opportunity to give his more established players a rest rather than fine-tune his team’s preparations for next summer’s more important battle.
Sandro Wagner is the only player aged over 29 as the likes of Manuel Neuer, Mats Hummels, Jerome Boateng, Toni Kroos, Mesut Ozil and Thomas Muller enjoy the summer off. Of course, the younger, inexperienced squad will have plenty of motivation to prove a point but it’s hard to make a case for the current crop.
The Die Mannschaft squad features only six players from their Euro 2016 squad and only three that featured in the 2014 World Cup success in Brazil. So it’s perhaps no wonder the Germans have lost pre-tournament favouritism over the past month with punters and bookies having to overlook Low’s men.
The strength in depth of German football shouldn’t be dismissed – a similarly assembled roster reached the Olympic final, only to lose on penalties – but minus their superstars from Europe’s top clubs, I’m happy to swerve Die Mannschaft at the prices.
As already suggested above, I’m keen to oppose Germany in the outright markets and that includes their position as Group B favourites. With Die Mannschaft coming up against an almost full-strength Chilean outfit, I’m more than happy to grab a piece of the 7/4 (Stan James) on the South Americans topping the pool.
Elsewhere, Cameroon and Australia seem likely to meet in a wooden spoon decider and odds of 5/6 (SkyBet) on the fading Socceroos propping up the pool appear kind enough to get involved with.
Confederations Cup – Chile to win Group B (7/4 Stan James)
Confederations Cup – Australia to finish bottom of Group B (5/6 SkyBet)