For those who cannot wait for the real thing, it is a kind of sneak peek.
Part of the appeal of the FIFA World Cup is its rarity. It occurs only once every four years and when it's over it's a long time coming. Right now we are just over halfway through the waiting process. South Africa was spectacular and Spain was supreme. The memories sustain us while the anticipation of the next edition is just beginning to whet the appetite.
Part of the void is filled by qualifying. More than 200 nations began the process but only 31 will survive to join their Brazilian hosts in the summer of 2014. Then there are the continental championships to keep us interested while we wait for the main event.
These lead directly to the Confederations Cup. It is essentially a dress rehearsal for the World Cup itself staged by the host nation roughly a year before the rest of the world drops by. It has been a designated FIFA event for 15 years, yet many of us are just getting used to this competition as a regular warm-up to soccer's global showpiece.
We probably don't treat it as seriously as we should. After all it is merely a 'test' event for the real thing. At face value it is little more than a mini World Cup held to ensure the stadia, the security and the infrastructure are functioning as they should, affording the organizers a chance to iron out any glitches in the system.
The Confederations Cup, however, is beginning to acquire its own identity. Its credibility and significance is beginning to grow. For those who mistakenly think the players go through the motions trying to avoid injury or fatigue, cast your mind back to 2009. The unlikely Brazil-U.S. Final might have appeared a mismatch on paper, but the championship game turned out to be a classic encounter.
By definition the competition is a global gathering. FIFA's six Confederations send their champions to test their metal against the World Champions and the World Cup hosts. It is, at least in theory, an appealing format but it is also an Achilles' heel.
Serious soccer fans will embrace an event which has serious contenders. The 2013 Confederations Cup will have that. Spain will send its all conquering armada to Brazil - a nation which has excelled at the World Cup more than any other. Rival heavyweights in attendance include Italy, Mexico and Uruguay who will be flexing their muscles alongside Tahiti.
That's right. Tahiti.
The south sea islanders are champions too. As winners of the 2012 Oceania Nations Cup, the Tahitians are preparing for their first ever senior FIFA competition. The French Polynesians - among the last nations on earth to see the daily sunrise - will go head-to-head with the likes of Neymar, Iniesta and Suarez.
They are five hours behind Eastern Time but light years behind soccer's elite. Tahiti battled New Caledonia into submission to claim its first continental title but it is both naive and foolish to include them in a competition where annihilation lurks at every turn.
If FIFA expects respect for its Confederations Cup, it must modify the entrance exam. While there's every chance of a juicy South American duel between Brazil and Uruguay, or the mouth- watering prospect of a Euro 2012 rerun between Spain and Italy, Tahiti is simply out of its depth.
It won't be at the 2014 World Cup, so why is it at the dress rehearsal?
The OFC Champion should have expected a qualifying playoff against the CONCACAF runner-up. The United States beat Spain four years ago and went on to give Brazil the fright of their lives. The U.S. is beginning to garner genuine respect on the international stage and would have added balance to the round robin groups. Tahiti is not ready for this kind of exposure.
For the time being, it is what it is. The draw procedure will at least ensure some meaningful contests from the get-go. Brazil against Spain, for example, or Uruguay versus Italy are likely group encounters to draw the attention. The hosts, in particular, have plenty to prove as Brazil gears up to welcome the world for the first time since 1950.
Tahiti against anyone is guaranteed to produce goals. But only at one end.
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