Friday, June 12, 2009

ATH: Confederations Cup Preview

From the U.S. National Soccer Team Players Association

Confederations Cup: US Opposition

Countries11Jun09

By Graig Carbino - ALBANY, NY (June 11th, 2009) USSoccerPlayers -- We are less than a week away from the opening kick of the 2009 FIFA Confederations Cup in South Africa. The United States National Team has made their way to South Africa and will look to settle in to their home base as quickly as possible after a sixteen-hour flight from the States.

With games against Italy, Brazil and Egypt looming in the span of a week, they won't have much time to acclimatize before play begins in this World Cup dress rehearsal. In any group-based tournament of this nature, a team's chances of moving onto the knockout round tends to rely heavily on the luck of the draw.

It would appear representatives from US Soccer who attended the tournament draw in November must have forgotten their charms.

In the simplest terms, the draw is what it is at this point. Game locations and times are set and the US will have to do the best they can given the matches in front of them. We certainly know the names “Italy” and “Brazil” and just uttering those countries and their soccer teams would strike fear in most opponents.

Let's dig a bit through the rosters of the United States three upcoming opponents and highlight a few players to keep an eye on.

Italy

What is there really to say about Italy? The defending World Cup champions bring a loaded roster to South Africa in preparation for next year's finals. Shocking, right? Most of the famous names are there. The ageless Fabio Cannavaro of Real Madrid is back to captain the side and Gianluigi Buffon (Juventus) will be in goal.

These two countries last met in the 2006 World Cup when they battled to an epic 10 vs. 9 one-all draw. The two forwards that started for Italy that day, Luca Toni (Bayern Munich) and Alberto Gilardino (Fiorentina) are also included on the 2009 Confederations Cup roster.

Another forward that will be looking for quality playing time with the Azzurri over the next few weeks will be Giuseppe Rossi. We all know Rossi at this point, right? The kid that was born and raised in the United States but has decided to play his international soccer with Italy. The proverbial pincushion for US fans, Rossi had a choice through his father of which country he wanted to play for. He went with tradition over country of origin, and most of you have yet to forgive him.

Brazil

Brazil, like Italy, boasts a roster full of international talent. New Real Madrid signing Kaka and Manchester City's Robinho will lead the way for a Selecao squad that will expect to make it to the finals of this event or bust.

Inter Milan's Julio Cesar will start in goal for Brazil with Landon Donovan's short term teammate from Bayern Munich Lucio playing right in front of him in defense. If you follow the English Premier League you should also know Elano, the temperamental central midfielder who was in and out of Mark Hughes's lineup throughout the season.

Also keep an eye out for Fiorentina's Felipe Melo in the middle of the field. He has what we will politely call a less than passive style of play. Three red cards in his first Serie A season help lend to that distinction.

AC Milan's nineteen-year-old sensation Alexandre Pato also makes the squad, but hasn't seen much playing time under Dunga with the national team. He scored 15 league goals for Milan this season and will be chomping at the bit to make his mark with the full Brazil squad. We'll wait a few more days to see if this tournament turns into his coming out party.

Egypt

So if you thought you knew Italy and Brazil fairly well, Egypt's roster is where the test comes in. Of the 23 players listed in the squad, 18 play their club soccer for teams based in Egypt. I am not sure about most of you, but I know the Al-Ahly - Zamalek derby isn't one that I catch every season. It is said to be the biggest rivalry in Africa and the Middle East though, so there's that.

Mohamed Shawky (Middlesbrough) and Amr Zaki (Wigan Athletic) are two names that might be familiar to US based fans as they both played this past season for teams in the EPL. A few notable absences from the squad include Middlesbrough's Mido and former Tottenham Hotspur midfielder Hossam Ghaly, both who have done themselves no favors in the past regarding disciplinary issues for both club and country.

Another player with an up and down history of attitude issues that has made the roster is Borussia Dortmund's Mohamed Zidan. Zidan played thirty times for Dortmund this past season, chipping in with seven goals and establishing himself as one of the clubs most important players. If Egypt are to get anything out of this very difficult group Zidan will have to be right at the heart of their play.

So there you have it, a quick breakdown on a few of the many players to keep watch for over the next few weeks. The US won't have it easy in this early “group of death” if the players listed above have anything to say about. Other heroes are sure to rise to the top as well. They always do on stages as large as this.



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