Explaining the Confederations Cup

Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, June 15, 2009

One year before the World Cup, this eight-nation tournament serves as a dress rehearsal for South African organizers. The two-week competition features six regional champions as well as reigning world title-holder Italy and the host country. Four cities will host matches -- Johannesburg, Pretoria, Rustenburg, Bloemfontein. A look at the tournament:

THE AMERICANS

The United States takes a break from the World Cup qualifying campaign to test itself against the two most-decorated nations in soccer history, Italy and Brazil. "The pressure will be on them and we want to go out there and show that we can play with them and get a good result," team captain Carlos Bocanegra said. "We want to get through this group and compete with these good teams." The 23-man U.S. roster is largely unchanged from the recent qualifying matches against Costa Rica and Honduras, with a heavy presence of veterans from European pro leagues, including England-based GK Tim Howard and MF Clint Dempsey. The Americans haven't faced Italy since the memorable 1-1 tie at the 2006 World Cup in Germany, the only blemish during the Azzurri's run to the championship. "It is a physically prepared team to be taken with great attention," Italy Coach Marcelo Lippi said.

THE FAVORITE

While the Americans are in a group with two international titans as well as African winner Egypt, European champion Spain, the world's top-ranked team, is not expected to encounter much resistance from Iraq, which is guided by former U.S. Coach Bora Milutinovic; 82nd-ranked New Zealand; and South Africa, which might end up being the weakest World Cup host team ever. "We know that any side can spring a surprise on you," said Spain defender Carles Puyol, whose squad entered the tournament with a 32-game unbeaten streak. "We can't afford to be overconfident. . . . Winning is the only thing on our minds."

THE STARS

Italy: MF Andrea Pirlo, F Luca Toni and D Fabio Cannavaro

Spain: F Fernando Torres, F David Villa and GK Iker Casillas

Brazil: MF Kaka, F Robinho and F Alexandre Pato

SCHEDULE

Sunday, June 14

South Africa 0, Iraq 0

Spain 5, New Zealand 0

Monday, June 15

Brazil vs. Egypt, 10 a.m. (ESPN2)

U.S. vs. Italy, 2:30 p.m. (ESPN, Telefutura)

Wednesday, June 17

Spain vs. Iraq (ESPN2)

South Africa vs. New Zealand (ESPN2)

Thursday, June 18

U.S. vs. Brazil (ESPN2)

Italy vs. Egypt (ESPN2)

Saturday, June 20

Iraq vs. New Zealand

Spain vs. South Africa (ESPN2)

Sunday, June 21

Italy vs. Brazil (ESPN)

U.S. vs. Egypt (ESPN2)

June 24-25

Semifinals (ESPN)

June 28

Consolation and championship games (ESPN2)



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