CBC Sports - FIFA Confederations Cup

FIFA Confederations CupConfederations Cup needs serious quality control

Posted: Monday, June 17, 2013 | 10:17 PM

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An unidentified Tahiti player, right, is comforted by Nigeria's John Ogu, left, after Nigeria won 6-1 in the Confederations Cup Group B match Monday in Belo Horizonte, Brazil. (Eugenio Savio) An unidentified Tahiti player, right, is comforted by Nigeria's John Ogu, left, after Nigeria won 6-1 in the Confederations Cup Group B match Monday in Belo Horizonte, Brazil. (Eugenio Savio)

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If you thought Tahiti was out of its depth against Nigeria, consider the fact its next game, on Thursday, is against Spain. The non-contest between the champions of Africa and Oceania did nothing to alter my view Tahiti should not be in Brazil.
We got what we expected and exactly what FIFA feared.

And it's only going to get worse. If you thought Tahiti was out of its depth against Nigeria, consider the fact its next game, on Thursday, is against Spain. The non-contest between the champions of Africa and Oceania did nothing to alter my view Tahiti should not be in Brazil.

Tournament underdogs are one thing. Everyone remembers, and applauded New Zealand for its unbeaten run at the 2010 World Cup. How about Senegal's huge upset over defending champion France in 2002 or Argentina's astounding loss to Cameroon at Italia '90?

Amateur pub teams being allowed to participate in global events is quite another. The Confederations Cup is a professional soccer tournament -- so let's have professionals on the field. Tahiti has one full-time player on its 23-man roster and, at 33, Marama Vahirua is in the twilight of his career.

The 6-1 drubbing was at times farcical. Nigeria started off at half speed and then regressed to walking pace -- such was the ease with which the Africans controlled the play. Tahiti's woefully inadequate defence was breached time and time again, removing any suggestion of a spirited fight back.

The only surprise was that Tahiti actually scored. Jonathan Tehau will be a national hero when he returns to the South Pacific next week after his far-post header nestled in the Nigerian net. Sadly he blotted his copybook by scoring again -- in his own goal -- 15 minutes later.

Tahiti may have won some temporary friends in Belo Horizonte. But the tournament has lost yet more credibility. The Confederations Cup is crying out to be seen as more than a "test" event for the World Cup - but this kind of lopsided spectacle makes a mockery of the qualifying criteria.

Where's FIFA?

What is FIFA's role here? To spread the football gospel and give every volcanic rock its 15 minutes of fame, or to present a compelling, balanced tournament? If sport is ultimately entertainment to divert our attention from the stress of real life, the latter option is the only credible one.

Soccer's world governing body needs to take a long, hard look at this. Oceania does not receive automatic entry into the World Cup that comprises of 32 nations. So why on earth does the same rule not apply when the field is cut down to eight contestants? Surely another team from Asia, Africa or North America, where the game is still in need of establishment, would be a preferable choice via a playoff.

In the context of this tournament, Tahiti will continue to be outclassed. It will lose both to Spain and Uruguay -- neither of whom will want to "ease up" since goal difference could well decide which two nations advance to the semifinals. There is no upside to this sorry tale -- and no, Tahiti will not benefit from the international experience of being hammered at every turn.


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Nigeria sitting pretty

Nigeria, by contrast, is sitting pretty. All fans of the Super Eagles should take a good look at the Group B standings while they last. Nigeria leads Spain on goal difference, but that will inevitably change once the world champions are done with the Tahitians later in the week. Brazil's 8-2 victory over Saudi Arabia in 1999 remains the biggest win in Confederations Cup history -- the record books will surely require an update.

Tuesday is a rest day in Brazil, but the hosts return to action on Wednesday against Mexico. Neymar will again be the name on everyone's lips after his explosive performance against Japan. But the Mexicans will be hoping Javier Hernandez and Giovani dos Santos can expose what may prove to be a suspect Brazilian back-line.

The Japanese, who created chances but failed to finish them at the weekend, will need to be more clinical if they hope to have a sniff of success against Italy. The Azzurri did just enough to win their opening game, but with Mario Balotelli focused on scoring goals rather than causing trouble, Italy's path to the final four could be clear cut.

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