Festival of Champions serves up new stars
Some of the best players in the world have been in action at the FIFA Confederations Cup 2009 and it is safe to say that they have not disappointed. The likes of Fernando Torres, Kaka and Teko Modise have played vital roles in helping their teams into the last four, but they are not the only ones to have shone. Some lesser-known players have seized their opportunity to perform on the world stage. With the group stage now complete, FIFA.com looks at some of the revelations who have been making their mark at the Festival of Champions.
Spanish lean to the left
With the same squad and playing style that led them to European Championship glory last year, Spain’s attacking prowess enabled them to dominate Group A. Fans of statistics will have noted that seven of their eight goals have come from the left. Left-back Joan Capdevila, who provided the assists for two goals in their crushing win over New Zealand, may not be Spain’s most high-profile player, but he is without doubt a mainstay for La Roja. Since the beginning of the tournament, the Villarreal man's continuous surges forward have created a host of goalscoring opportunities, and with three assists, he is currently joint top of the list alongside Egypt's Mohamed Aboutrika.
Further forward, another left-sided player has fit perfectly into the European champions’ style of play and won the confidence of coach Vicente del Bosque. With his pinpoint passes and powerful shot, Albert Riera is one of the reasons that Spain launch so many attacks from the left.
By claiming second spot in Group A, hosts South Africa made sure that the home fans would have something to cheer about come the semi-finals. While Steven Pienaar and Teko Modise were the names on everyone’s lips before the tournament, Matthew Booth is now the name being chanted from the stands. After a series of sterling performances in defence and having held his own against Villa and Torres - “the best strike partnership in the world” in Booth’s opinion - the 6 foot 6 inch giant has become the darling of the nation. Other strong defensive performances came from Sibonsio Gaxa and Tsepo Masilela, whose work rate and consistency have placed them near the top of the Castrol Index.
A worthy successor
In the semi-finals, the hosts will come up against the artistry of Brazil. The likes of Kaka, Robinho, Lucio and Luis Fabiano need no introduction, but Andre Santos, Felipe Melo and Ramires may be less-familiar names. Corinthians left-back Andre Santos has now established himself as the first-choice replacement for Roberto Carlos, and his link-up play with Felipe Melo has been improving with every match. Dunga has tried Anderson, Edmilson, Fernando, Hernanes, Josue, Mineiro and Tinga in his efforts to fill the holding midfield position, but finally seems to have found his man in Melo. Aside from his ball-winning and distribution skills, the Fiorentina midfielder is also a significant aerial threat, which was clearly in evidence as he scored Brazil’s opening goal in their 3-0 win over USA. Ramires, on the other hand, is still an understudy to Brazil’s star forward line, but when Dunga gave him his chance he took it with both hands, showing blistering acceleration to put the ball on a plate for Robinho who claimed the Auriverde’s second goal against the USA.
Finally, although they did not make it to the semi-finals, some players from the four eliminated teams made good use of the FIFA Confederations Cup to show the world what they can do. While all eyes were on Italian attacking triumvirate Luca Toni, Alberto Gilardino and Vicenzo Iaquinta, the only attacker to score was the substitute and youngest forward on the team Giuseppe Rossi, who tallied two goals after coming on in Italy’s 3-1 defeat of USA.
As for the last line of defence, the Iraqi Mohammed Kassid, Egyptian Essam El Hadary and New Zealander Glen Moss all put in excellent performances. Kassid can even go home happy in the knowledge that he was statistically the best keeper in the group stages according to the Castrol Index, while the heroics of the Pharaohs' No1 in their famous 1-0 win over Italy will live long in the memory. Finally, although Moss conceded seven goals in three games, the Kiwi shot-stopper performed miracles in the All Whites’ last match against Iraq, with their scoreless draw bringing New Zealand their first point in any senior FIFA men's tournament.