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Spain, Brazil – favourites for Egyptians
Published in The Egyptian Gazette on 19 - 06 - 2013

CAIRO - The FIFA Confederations Cup, which kicked off in Brazil on Saturday, is offering a big preparation opportunity for the participating teams ahead of the 2014 World Cup, according to Egyptian soccer gurus.
The June 15-30 mini-tournament features eight teams, but the Brazilian hosts and Spain are the hot favorites for winning the title, say the Egyptian experts.
Brazil, which also hosts the next year's World Cup, is keen to put other rivals on notice. The Spaniards are out to assert their clout too.
Since 2005, the Confederations Cup has been held in the nation that hosts the World Cup the following year.
To Abdul Aziz Abdul Shafi, an ex- soccer wizard and a former coach of Al-Ahly of Egypt, Brazil is in a good shape, relying on a group of young and seasoned players who are able to clinch the title.
"Still, Brazil – the samba team – will have to overpower the world champion Spain – the Matador – who also eyes the title to maintain its successful drive initiated by the Euro 2008 championship and through the 2010 World Cup and Euro 2012 championship," Abdul Shafi told the official Middle East News Agency (MENA).
The Confederations Cup, which is held every four years, is contested by the holders of each of the six FIFA confederation championships.
They are the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA), the South American Football Confederation (CONMEBOL), the Confederation of North, Central American and Caribbean Association Football (CONCACAF), the Confederation of African Football (CAF), the Asian Football Confederation (AFC), the Oceania Football Confederation (OFC), along with the FIFA World Cup holder and the host nation.
"This tournament will serve as a final rehearsal for the 2014 World Cup," added Abdul Shafi.
In his view, all the participating teams in the current competition are more or less on the same par due to exhaustion, which usually hits footballers at the end of the league season.Abdul Shafi believes that the Spaniards' standards have dropped of late.
"The Matadors' performance will not be at its best level. Yet, they are still among the favorites."
The tournament is divided into two groups; each includes four teams. Group A comprises Brazil, Japan, Mexico and Italy. Group B is composed of Spain, Uruguay, Tahiti and Nigeria.
Hassan el-Shazli, another Egyptian soccer expert, singles out Brazil as the hot favourite to reach the final.
"Playing at home and in front of its fans will make a big difference for the samba, advantages not available to the Spanish opponents," he said.
"The current Brazilian team does not include stellar players like those of the past years. However, having a rising star such as Neymar da Silva Santos will add diversity to the Samba team. Santos is likely to carve a niche for himself in this competition," argued el-Shazli.
"Meanwhile, Spain may not be in its top form. But the Matadors are resolved to return home with the trophy."
El-Shazli rules out that Italy will vie with Brazil and Spain for the title. As for Nigeria, who plays in Group B along with Spain, Uruguay and Tahiti, el-Shazli says that the African Squad, known as the Eagles, has a fame for putting on amazing performances in international championships. The Brazil competition will not be an exception.
"Nigeria will try to defeat Uruguaya to qualify as the second-placed team after Spain, who is expected to lead group B," adds el-Shazli.
"The global footballing map has strikingly changed in the recent period and all teams use the attack tactics to win.".
Taha Ismail, an ex- soccer coach, argues that teams participating in the Confederations Cup do not hold much hope for the tournament.
"The aim shared by all the squads is to perform seamlessly and coherently without much regard to the results," he said.
"Most of these teams consider the tournament an opportunity for technical preparation to know firsthand the standards of their players and gauge their strengths and weaknesses."
Ismail predicts that most teams will try more than one tactic to pull off their optimal line-up in preparation for upcoming competitions.
"The Samba team will fire up the Confederations Cup, taking advantage of factors of the home turf and fans to win the title for the fourth time in its history," said Ismail.
Brazil won the Confederations Cup titles in 1997 and for two consecutive times in 2005 and 2009.
Ismail agrees that Spaniards will also be a big favourite in the current tournament.
"Despite the fierce competition, Italy should not be counted out as a strong rival for the title. The Italians usually present strong showings in such international tournaments," he added.
"There will be a tough rivalry between Nigeria and Uruguay over the second place in Group B, with each will struggle to qualify along with Spain."
Ismail sees Nigeria as boasting professional and well-built players who often show their mettle in world events.
"Nigeria will defend itself vigorously against giant competitors. But at the end of the day, rivalry will be limited to Brazil and Spain."
Taha Besri, an ex-Zamalek footballer and a former Petrojet coach, expects the Spaniards to go home with the title.
"Brazil has not yet reached the level of the Samba we have long known. So, Spain is now the best on the world soccer stage, a fact illustrated in the recent FIFA world rankings."
Five-time World Cup winner, Brazil, dropped to a historic low of No. 22 in the FIFA World rankings released earlier this month, while World and European champion, Spain, extended its lead of the rankings followed by Germany, Argentina and Croatia.

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