Given that we are still in early 2012, it is tempting to think there is a long way to go before the 32 participating teams kick off their bids for glory at the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil™. Yet fans in the Host Nation need wait less than a year and a half to savour a similarly feverish atmosphere in that most tantalising of FIFA World Cup appetisers: the FIFA Confederations Cup.
On 15 June 2013, the Estadio Nacional in Brasilia will host the opening match of the next ‘Festival of Champions’, with the competition to feature the continental title winners from each of the world’s six confederations, in addition to reigning world champions Spain and hosts Brazil. The eight participating nations will battle it out to reach 30 June’s final in the Maracana in Rio de Janeiro, while the cities of Belo Horizonte and Fortaleza are also scheduled to welcome games.
Recife and Salvador, for their part, are still awaiting final approval from FIFA and the Brazil 2014 Local Organising Committee (LOC). The final announcement of the tournament’s match schedule and the confirmed host cities will come in June 2012.
“To all of us in the Local Organising Committee, the FIFA Confederations Cup is much more than just a preparatory tournament for the FIFA World Cup,” said Brazil legend and current member of the LOC’s Management Board, Ronaldo, who was a FIFA Confederations Cup winner at Saudi Arabia 1997. “We’re determined to put on a great fiesta next year, a genuine Festival of Champions.”
A number of said champions have already secured their places alongside Spain and Brazil, with Mexico, Japan and Uruguay winning the CONCACAF Gold Cup, AFC Asian Cup and Copa America respectively in 2011. The remaining participants will be the victors of next year's CAF Africa Cup of Nations, the 2012 OFC Nations Cup and the UEFA EURO 2012. The eight competing teams will be divided into two groups of four at the competition’s final draw, which will be held on 1 December in Sao Paulo.
“I think that in Brazil [in 2013] we’ll have the strongest set of national sides since the tournament began,” said Ronaldo. “It will be a great opportunity for Brazilian fans to watch top-level football in new stadiums, as well as to give the world a little taste of our hospitality.”
Size on the rise
Ever since the inaugural edition in 1992 in Saudi Arabia, when it was still known as the King Fahd Cup, the FIFA Confederations Cup proved both popular with supporters as well as a valuable opportunity for major national sides to clash at an official tournament. The competition has been held on a four-yearly basis, the year before each FIFA World Cup and in the same host country, since Germany 2005. Indeed, the concept has been so successful that the 16 matches played at South Africa 2009 were transmitted live to 149 territories, with audience figures totalling 550 million people.
What's more, the FIFA Confederations Cup holds a special place in the hearts of Brazilian football fans thanks to the fine pedigree of A Seleção – winners of three of the eight editions to date, including the last two.
“It’s an extremely important competition, it’s like a preview for the FIFA World Cup,” said Ronaldinho, who helped inspire Brazil to victory in Germany in 2005, the year he was also voted FIFA World Player for the second time. “The next edition will have a special flavour since it’s in Brazil. For that reason I’m very motivated, and I’m hoping to take part in this competition in 2013."
As part of the countdown process, the next FIFA Confederations Cup now has an official emblem, which features a native Brazilian bird species: the Rufous-bellied Thrush. This unveiling goes to show just how quickly things are progressing, with tickets for Brazil 2013 going on sale shortly after the final draw. And, in exactly 500 days’ time, will come the moment Brazil has been waiting for since they were announced as 2014 FIFA World Cup hosts back in 2007: watching the world’s best players grace Brazilian soil.