Since the inception of the tournament back in 1992, the opening matches of the FIFA Confederations Cup have produced some surprise results. FIFA.com looks back at three shocks that have kicked the tournament off, a tradition that Brazil will be hoping to avoid when they get the 2013 event under way against Japan this Saturday.
Saudi show of strength
The host nation of the first three FIFA Confederation Cups, Saudi Arabia were still two years short of their FIFA World Cup™ debut when they met the much-fancied USA in the inaugural match at the inaugural Festival of Champions in 1992. Coached by Bora Milutinovic, the Americans were on the way up, having appeared at Italy 1990 and lifted the CONCACAF Gold Cup the following year. They also had a talented generation of players to call on, among them Tony Meola, Tab Ramos and Marcelo Balboa, and were widely tipped to ease past the home side.
The Saudis had other ideas, however. Inspired by the magic of Sami Al Jaber, they eased to an emphatic 3-0 win with goals from Fahad Al Bishi, Youssef Al Tunayan and Khaled Al Muwallid, springing the first major shock in the tournament’s history. That result was seen by many as the Saudis’ springboard to the international stage, and after making their world finals debut at USA 1994, they would also qualify for the following three FIFA World Cups.
The first match of the 1997 FIFA Confederations Cup threw up another unexpected scoreline when Australia saw off Mexico 3-1. El Tri went into the game having just retained their CONCACAF title and boasted a side that combined experience in the shape of Claudio Suarez, Ramon Ramirez and Luis Garcia with the youthful promise of Oswaldo Sanchez, Cuauhtemoc Blanco and Luis Hernandez.
All the indications were they would not be troubled by an Australia side still coming to terms with their dramatic failure to qualify for France 1998 a month earlier, when they let slip a two-goal lead to lose to Iran in a play-off.
Bouncing back fast, the Socceroos breezed to victory against the Mexicans, with Mark Viduka and John Aloisi turning in fine performances as they took a confident first step towards the final, where they would lose to Brazil.
“We dominated the first half and looked to have everything under control. All we needed to do was find the killer punch,” said the coach of that Mexico side, Manuel Lapuente, who one year later would lead them to the quarter-finals at France 1998. “I think we got a little too confident, though, and when they scored it became an uphill task for us.”
Mighty Germany were the next side on the wrong end on a shock result in a FIFA Confederations Cup opener, though their 4-0 reverse in the inaugural fixture at Mexico 1999 did come against Brazil. While the Germans travelled to the competition without some of their most important players, the likes of Jens Lehmann, Lothar Matthaeus and Michael Ballack were all on duty that day in Guadalajara.
“We couldn’t take all our stars with us and that’s why there were a few players who made two or three appearances for the national team there and not many after that,” the then Germany coach Erich Ribbeck later said. “All the same, the Brazilians were very well prepared and we came in for some heavy criticism.”
Ze Roberto, Ronaldinho and Alex with two goals were Brazil’s scorers in what remains their biggest ever victory over the Germans. Though Vanderlei Luxemburgo’s side went down in the final to Mexico, several members of his side would go on to form the nucleus of the team that became world champions under Luiz Felipe Scolari at Korea/Japan 2002.
There have been no such upsets in the opening matches of the FIFA Confederations Cup since then, a trend underdogs Japan will hope to reverse when they go head to head with the Brazilians on Saturday.