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(L-R) Cristiano Ronaldo, Tim Cahill and Javier Hernandez (Photos: AFP)
While the World Cup and the Euro are the most-watched quadrennial tournaments in world football, the Confederations Cup has a special place in many football fans’ hearts.
Why? Well, for simply one reason. The best of the best, from every continent, along with the World Cup winners and the next World Cup’s hosts are vying for supremacy in a relatively quick eight-nation tournament. So for those who say that FIFA’s tournaments are too long and there are teams lacking in quality, especially in the early stages, the Confederations Cup is the perfect riposte.
But who are the vaunted talents that are participating in the 2017 edition? The Statesman has short-listed the top 10 for you, below:
To the casual fan, it may seem strange that a goalkeeper is a star, but after closing in a century of appearances for the national side, he is exactly that. An epitome of consistency for club CSKA Moscow, where he was won a multitude of domestic titles, the 30-year-old Akinfeev has been quite consistent for his country as well, barring the odd blunder. His consistent displays contributed to him being made captain ahead of former Chelsea full-back Yuri Zhirkov and veteran midfielder Denis Glushakov.
Il Guerriero has been one of the best midfielders in world football for a while now. Crucial in their stunning 2015 Copa America triumph, the Bayern Munich man plays like a man who’s got nothing to lose. At times it may not be the best way, but Vidal is one of those players who revels living on the edge. Box-to-box, all-action, you name the term and the 30-year-old will do it. With La Roja in a tough-looking Group A, their warrior will have to be on top of his game if they are to avoid an early exit.
Portugal’s and Real Madrid’s all-time top scorer, Ronaldo is arguably in the form of his life despite being relatively ‘old’ at 32. His speed and trickery may be greatly diminished, but his movement inside the box and finishing remain unparalleled still. After leading his side to a historic Euro triumph in 2016, he will want to prove that it was no fluke by leading his side to their maiden Confederations Cup title.
If Vidal provides the gunpowder, Sanchez is the cannon, not surprising, considering he is an Arsenal player (at least for now!). Right-wing, left-wing or striker, Sanchez can literally play any position across the forward line and it his versatility, coupled with his never-say-die spirit which make him so hard to mark. If he and Vidal combine on the pitch, they have a strong chance of lifting the title, such is their quality.
The grand-old man of Australian football, Cahill is still going strong despite edging close to 40. The former Everton midfielder may not start all the games, but his experience will be vital for the Socceroos in the high-profile tournament. Could make some impact appearances off the bench and with his nose for goal he could wreak havoc as Australia seek to somehow upset the odds and qualify from their group.
After initially struggling to settle in England, Wood has found his place at Championship side Leeds. Banging in the goals for fun, the 25-year-old New Zealander has been impressive in the second-tier of English football. Standing at over 6’3, he is an aerial threat and will be the man to mark on set-peices. Wood’s got a decent scoring record for his country and under his captaincy, New Zealand will be out to spring an upset or two.
Chicharito, as he is fondly known as, is about one thing and one thing only: goals. The diminutive striker is quite fast and has an excellent work-rate but his goalscoring abilities are second to none. Whether for club Bayer Leversuken or his country, Chicharito boasts an impressive goals to games ratio and his predatory instincts could be the difference between defeat and victory for an underrated El Tri side.
Cameroon’s hero in the 2015 African Cup of Nations (AFCON) final against Egypt, the 25-year-old Aboubakar has a decent goalscoring record for the Indomitable Lions. While he never quite settled at Porto, the 6-feet-tall striker was an instant hit with Besiktas in the Super Lig, with his 12 goals proving crucial enroute to a second consecutive title. In Lions side that doesn't have much experience, the likes of Aboubakar will have to produce a few special performances if they are to make the knockout stages.
It seems Draxler has been around for forever, but somehow the young man once tipped to rule Europe has not quite been able to wrest the crown. Moving to Wolfsburg from Schalke 04 did not bear much fruit and in January 2017, surprisingly, Paris Saint-Germain came calling. While it is too early to judge his stint with the French giants, there is no denying that along with the burden of captaincy, Draxler is under pressure to perform or perish. He’s still relatively young at 23, but time is running out for him to prove himself and what better stage than the Confederations Cup to make a splash that revives the public’s interest?
A crucial part of the Monaco side that romped to the Ligue 1 title and put many to the sword in the Champions League last season, Portugal’s diminutive magician has the potential to become the world’s best. And after his mega-bucks move to Manchester City, there will be a lot of pressure on the attacking midfielder to deliver for his national side. Can Portugal’s answer to David Silva ease the pressure on the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo and co?
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