CBC Sports - FIFA Confederations Cup

FIFA Confederations CupEuropean artistry on full display at Confederations Cup

Posted: Sunday, June 16, 2013 | 11:17 PM

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Members of the Spanish soccer team celebrate a goal against Uruguay on Sunday at the Confederations Cup in Recife, Brazil. (Fernando Llano/Associated Press) Members of the Spanish soccer team celebrate a goal against Uruguay on Sunday at the Confederations Cup in Recife, Brazil. (Fernando Llano/Associated Press)

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Spain's modus operandi has not changed in years. It is entirely predictable yet virtually impossible to overcome. Don't make the mistake of confusing predictability with a certain threshold of boredom.
Look up "predictable" in the dictionary. Next to it you might find a picture of the Spanish national team.

What it does, and how it does it, surprises no one. Spain's modus operandi has not changed in years. It is entirely predictable yet virtually impossible to overcome. Don't make the mistake of confusing predictability with a certain threshold of boredom.

Its beauty, and effectiveness, is in its simplicity. Like all masters of their art -- the Spaniards make it look easy, but the soccer ballet has an intricacy borne out of a long standing developmental policy followed by endless hours of individual practice.

Within half an hour, the world champions' Group B opener against Uruguay was effectively over as a contest. Pedro's wickedly deflected shot, followed by Soldado's crisp finish to cap Spain's umpteenth fluent offensive foray, presented Uruguay with an unscalable mountain.

The rest was elementary. With an hour to spare, Spain toyed with the South Americans -- using its one-touch passing skills in a competitive environment en route to a 2-1 victory on Sunday. In Luis Suarez and Edinson Cavani, Uruguay has the luxury of two of the world's best strikers, but it's tough to score if you cannot get the football.

Spanish coach Vicente Del Bosque has a problem. He can only pick 11 players at a time. When he can afford to leave out the likes of Valdes, Silva, Villa, Torres and Mata, to name but a few, the size of the task facing any given opponent becomes abundantly clear. And whatever Jose Mourinho might think of Iker Casillas, Del Bosque ended the goalkeeping debate by handing the captain's armband to the Real Madrid stopper.

He was a virtual spectator for much of the game. Casillas could do nothing about Suarez' brilliant free kick but it was nothing more than a consolation for Uruguay who, like so many teams before, failed to find a solution to La Roja's riddle.


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The brilliance of Andrea Pirlo

Suarez might have taken a lesson from The Architect himself. Andrea Pirlo knows a thing or two about dead-ball situations, and marked his 100th appearance for Italy with a trademark goal.

If there is one thing we know about the Italians -- they are always slow starters in tournament soccer, right?  Wrong. For once the Azzurri began as they mean to continue. Mario Balotelli, complete with sensible haircut, could have had a hat trick against Mexico inside the first 10 minutes.

Mexican goalie Jose Corona did well to deny the Milan marksman, whose moment would come, but the peerless and ageless Pirlo left him grasping at air to give Italy a deserved 1-0 lead. Mexico deserves credit for battling back via a well taken Javier Hernandez penalty-kick and almost did enough to earn a share of the spoils.

Like Neymar of Brazil, much is expected to Italy's Balotelli. On his last appearance for the national team, the all too familiar red mist descended. His sending off in Prague was replaced by the right kind of threat at the Maracana. Immensely strong and genuinely focused on the task at hand, Balotelli's late winner handed the Azzurri a 2-1 victory they worked hard to earn.

Italy's triumph may be pivotal in deciding which teams advance from Group A. While Mexico faces the daunting task of trying to beat Brazil on home soil, the Italians can look ahead with confidence to their meeting with Japan on Wednesday (CBCSports.ca, 5:45 p.m. ET). The mouth-watering prospect of Brazil versus Italy next weekend may be somewhat meaningless by the time it arrives.

Welcome, Tahiti

Before all that, it is time to welcome a newcomer to the party. Tahiti -- that's right, Tahiti is preparing for its 90 minutes of fame at the Confederations Cup. Infamy may be a more apt description depending on what happens in Belo Horizonte.

The Oceania champion -- with just one professional player on its entire roster -- will take the field against Nigeria in a battle of David and Goliath proportions Monday (2:45 p.m. ET). The Tahitians will use the game as a warm-up for their farcical meeting with Spain on Thursday (CBCSports.ca, 2:45 p.m. ET). We all like a good underdog story, but Tahiti's involvement does nothing for the credibility of a tournament which wants to be taken seriously.

That said, it was in Belo Horizonte in 1950 that a bunch of part-time Americans beat England in what remains one of the great World Cup upsets of all time.

But we all know lightning doesn't strike twice. Right?


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