The inaugural FIFA Confederations Cup, played for the first time as an intercontinental tournament, took place in Saudi Arabia in 1992 at the behest of then King Fahd bin Abdulaziz Al Saud. As patron, the king also lent his name to the event, and the prize on offer in 1992 and 1995 was the King Fahd Cup. The field was made up of reigning continental champions plus hosts Saudi Arabia, whose capital Riyadh staged the tournament from 1982 to 1997. In the first edition, 1986 world champions and 1990 FIFA World Cup™ finalists Argentina started as overwhelming favourites to win the King Fahd Cup. A team replete with stars like Sergio Goycochea, Oscar Ruggeri, Fernando Redondo, Claudio Caniggia and Gabriel Batistuta duly collected the inaugural honours, defeating the home team in the final.
FIFA assumed responsibility for the event in 1997 and the name was changed to the FIFA Confederations Cup, a tournament which can legitimately be regarded as the rightful heir to similar intercontinental contests of the past. On the one hand, the reigning European and South American champions had previously met in 1985 and 1993 to contest the Artemio Franchi Trophy, the national team counterpart of the European-South American Cup, more widely known as the Intercontinental Cup. Franchi was an Italian official and later UEFA president who died in 1983. And on the other hand, the African and Asian champions contested the Afro-Asian Cup of Nations at irregular intervals between 1978 and 2007.
The eight editions of the FIFA Confederations Cup have produced five different winners, with Brazil at the top of the ranking on three triumphs. There have been surprise winners too: the Danes claimed the honours as European champions in 1995, and Mexico took the 1999 crown at their legendary Estadio Azteca in a thrilling 4-3 victory over Brazil.
Spectacular football and a mini-era
Brazil's march to dominance began in 1997, when they were first eligible for the tournament as world champions and sent a strong team comprising members of the triumphant side from USA 1994 and a group of talented youngsters who would go on to global fame at the 2002 FIFA World Cup Korea/Japan. A Seleção proved unstoppable and dismissed Australia 6-0 in a one-sided final. Coach Mario Zagallo, himself a FIFA World Cup winner in 1958, skilfully combined youth and experience to produce a formidable team, spearheaded by Romario and Ronaldo: the deadly marksmen each scored a hat-trick in the final. It was Brazil's first FIFA Confederations Cup triumph.
What followed was a brief era of French dominance. The 1998 world champions and 2000 European champions were at their peak and eased to victory at the 2001 FIFA Confederations Cup, even in the absence of Fabien Barthez and Zinedine Zidane. In fact, Zidane would also play no part two years later when the French retained the trophy on home soil, although the tournament is chiefly remembered for the tragic case of Cameroon midfielder Marc Vivien Foe, who collapsed on the field during his side's semi-final against Colombia and was declared dead shortly afterwards. The phenomenon known as Sudden Cardiac Death (SCD) is rare, but does unfortunately re-occur among otherwise extremely fit young footballers. FIFA is committed to preventative and precautionary measures against footballing tragedies such as this, and is at work on a programme to install defibrillators at every stadium, ensuring immediate first aid is available and reducing the risk of sudden death on the field to the absolute minimum. World football's governing body also set up a charity foundation in the memory of Foe.
Dress rehearsal for global showdown
As of 2005, the FIFA Confederations Cup was revamped to be a dress rehearsal for the FIFA World Cup, meaning it will take place every four years and be staged by the hosts for the following year's global showdown. In fact, the 2001 edition was a de facto test of the organisation for the 2002 FIFA World Cup in Korea and Japan.
Nowadays, FIFA and the host nation use the curtain-raiser as a stress test for the infrastructure, stadiums and organisation a year ahead of the main event, allowing any weak points to be determined and fixed in good time. The event in Brazil this month is the ninth edition of the FIFA Confederations Cup and will be played in six of the stadiums to be used at the 2014 FIFA World Cup.