Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Confederations Cup - Day 6 Review

Group B
Italy 0 Brazil 3 (Tshwane/Pretoria)
Egypt 0 USA 3 (Rustenburg)

The term "swing" is not one used readily outside the world of politics or non-conformist sexual practice, but it was a word that could be heard above the vuvuzelas with regularity on Sunday during the extraordinary events in Rustenberg and Bloemfontein. The swing of course refers to the extraordinary and unlikely six goals that needed to be conceded and scored to allow for the current line up of the Confederations Cup semi-finals.

It seems that the hotels in South Africa aren't the only places providing wake up calls. Both Italy and Egypt have been dining out on their recent achievements but this tournament is proving to be a bridge too far for their respective squads.

Italy's collapse against the Brazilians in their final Group B match has confirmed what many suspected, i.e. (1) there needs to be some changes, and (2) no-one's quite sure if those changes will be good enough. Their midfield still benefits from the industrious Pirlo but Iaquinta and Luca Toni were not convincing throughout the tournament and coach Lippi was weighed down by his conservative selection and did not use this competition to bring the outstanding Giuseppe Rossi through by playing him from the start. Brazilain centre back Lucio proved to be a match for the Italian forwards and the brilliant Luis Fabiano turned the world champions inside out reducing the great Fabio Cannavaro to ashes and surely considering his position.

As the carnage ensued at Loftus Versfield, Italy's early exit was being sealed in Bloemfontein but not quite in the way we expected. The African champions must have been supremely confident by their narrow defeat to Brazil and famous victory over the Italians. With the two tough games out of the way, the Egyptians had supposedly done the hard part and surely a win was doable against a frankly dreadful US team.

Sadly for them and astonishingly for the US, the team imploded. You could put the States' opening goal down to a touch of good fortune if you wanted to be charitable but the reality is that Egypt got it badly wrong and allowed their opponents, who themselves weren't living up to the expectations of their supporters, into a semi-final game against the European champions. For their part, the US, buoyed by outside events, seized their moment brilliantly and presented their coach Bob Bradley with a signature moment that he scarcely deserves. But hey, that's football.

So while Egypt and Italy are sent home to face their respective media and scratch their heads, we are down to the final four. US fans will love their shot at the Spanish and South Africa get a mouthwatering dream match against Brazil. Both games may be a touch one sided but they'll be intriguing nonetheless.

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