The first championship between the continental champions to be held under the auspices of FIFA takes place over ten days in the middle ofDecember - an opportunity to assess the strengths and weaknesses of thebest teams from the different confederations.
Brazil will be there, alongwith Mexico, South Africa, Australia,Uruguay, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and the Czech Republic.And at stake will be a striking new trophy which bears the name of KingFahd of Saudi Arabia.
The event is the first FIFA/Confederations' Cup, to be played from 12 to21 December in what has often been described as the world's mostbeautiful stadium : the King Fahd Stadium on the outskirts of Riyadh,the capital of Saudi Arabia, famous for its unique tented structured andscene of the final and other matches of the 1989 FIFA/Coca-Cola WorldYouth Championship.
The same stadium has also been host to the first two editions of theIntercontinental Championship, hosted by Saudi Arabia on behalf of theAsian Football Confederation in 1992 and 1995. Argentina, the SouthAmerican champions from 1991, won the first of these two tournaments andthe EURO 92 champions, Denmark, won the second. But now the event hastaken on a new dimension by becoming an official FIFA event, held againin Riyadh as a sign of respect for the country which gave birth to theevent five years ago.
The concept is basically the same : to invite the champions of each ofthe continental championships to contest a tournament among themselves.Hence the composition of the eight-team field :
The draw in Riyadh last February kept the two South American teams aswell as the Arab neighbours apart, and split the other four teams intothe two groups. All 16 matches will be played in the King Fahd Stadium.
- Brazil are not only the current South American champions but wereinvited to participate as World Champions
- Uruguay were their continent's champions in the year when the eventwas decided, in 1995
- South Africa are the reigning African champions, having won the titleon home soil in 1996
- Mexico won the CONCACAF Gold Cup in the United States, also at thebeginning of this year
- Australia won the inaugural Oceania Nations Cup
- the Czech Republic finished worthy runners-up in EURO 96 to Germanyand politely accepted the invitation to participate which the Europeanchampions had declined
- Saudi Arabia won the Asian Cup in the United Arab Emirates lastDecember
- the UAE took the silver medals on home soil then, and are included inthe tournament because the Asian champions, Saudi Arabia, qualifyautomatically as hosts.
; float: right; margin-bottom: 1px;border: 0px solid;" alt="King Fahd Trophy" src="http://www.fifa.com/fifa/pub/photos2/fm12-97.11.gif" />The previous two invitation tournaments had aroused great interest amongthe Saudi public and also captured a fair amount of international mediaattention. Only four teams took part in the first event in 1992, butthey produced plenty of goals. Saudi Arabia beat the USA in the firstgame but then lost the Final to Argentina, 1-3, the South Americanshaving defeated Côte d'Ivoire 4-0 in their own first match. The USA tookthird place by beating Côte d'Ivoire 5-2. Saudi Arabia's matchesattracted crowds of over 70,000.