Red-faced FIFA's show must go on | Soccer | CBC Sports

SoccerRed-faced FIFA's show must go on

Posted: Saturday, December 1, 2012 | 11:34 AM

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The draw started to go south when FIFA Secretary General Jerome Valcke held out the lot of Uruguay during the draw in Sao Paulo, Brazil, on Saturday. (Andre Penner/Associated Press) The draw started to go south when FIFA Secretary General Jerome Valcke held out the lot of Uruguay during the draw in Sao Paulo, Brazil, on Saturday. (Andre Penner/Associated Press)

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"It is an easy draw," declared FIFA Secretary General, Jerome Valcke.

He was right. A simple matter of placing eight teams into two groups of four. What could be easier? The look of the 2013 FIFA Confederations Cup was about to take shape.
"It is an easy draw," declared FIFA Secretary General, Jerome Valcke.

He was right. A simple matter of placing eight teams into two groups of four. What could be easier? The look of the 2013 FIFA Confederations Cup was about to take shape.

The equation was further simplified by the fact that two of those teams were seeded and their destiny predetermined. The rule stating no two teams from the same region could be drawn together made it even more straightforward.

Host nation Brazil was duly placed in Group A while World champions Spain took pole position in Group B. Then the fun began. Uruguay was the next name plucked from the bowl but the South American champions found themselves in the same group as Brazil.

Suddenly the easy draw wasn't easy at all. Only too late did Valcke realize the error which we had all witnessed. "We've made a mistake...that's bad," admitted the French FIFA official to a worldwide audience.

Bad and awkward and more than a little uncomfortable.

Would he press on with the draw knowing it was flawed? He couldn't go back and start again since half the pots had been opened. At the same time he couldn't proceed without some manipulation of the allocation.

Minutes after hearing his boss, FIFA President Sepp Blatter proclaim the Confederations Cup is "not a rehearsal - it is a tournament of champions" Valcke must have wished it was, indeed, merely a rehearsal. But anyone who has ever appeared on stage knows the first rule of show business: whatever happens, the show must go on.

'A bit chaotic'


And so it did. The draw was "a bit chaotic" to quote Valcke, but at least we now know who plays who next summer. The Brazilians will face Japan, Mexico and Italy. Spain will tackle Uruguay, Tahiti and the, as yet, unknown African champions.

Group A is, without doubt, the more difficult section. While the hosts will be favoured with the benefit of home advantage, there are no easy games for Brazil. Veteran coach Luis Felipe Scolari, brought back to lead his nation for a second time, will know the pressure is on. His team must put on a convincing show at the Confederations Cup in preparation for the World Cup itself while Big Phil must prove his best coaching days are not already behind him.

By comparison, Group B appears to be wrapped up before a ball is kicked. It will be a massive upset if Spain and Uruguay fail to reach the semifinals. The only question is which nation will top the section and while the Spaniards begin as the world's number one team, the Uruguayans will want to lay down a marker that they have overtaken both Brazil and Argentina as the leading lights in South America.

Brazil's match up against Italy will evoke memories of the 1970 and 1994 World Cup Finals. Brazil emerged triumphant on both occasions but the Italians have rehabilitated themselves nicely since the meltdown in South Africa. Having reached the Euro 2012 final, the Azzurri will be keen to underline their resurgence.

On the under-card, Japan's discipline and work rate cannot be underestimated. The Asian champions will be no pushovers and will, at the very least, keep their more illustrious opponents honest. Mexico has the offensive flair to cause real problems for any team and if the Gold Cup winners can tighten up their defence they have a realistic chance to advance.

Tahiti does not. Oceania's representative will take part in its first senior FIFA competition and it will be a baptism of fire. Already eliminated from World Cup qualifying, the French Polynesians will be way out of their depth. Scoring a goal or earning a point would be a minor miracle. In an eight team tournament, Tahiti's involvement is absurd.

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