THE Socceroos are on their way to Russia for the dress rehearsal for the 2018 World Cup, returning to the Confederations Cup for the first time since representing Oceania in 2005.
The 2017 Confederations Cup will take place in host country Russia from 17 June to 2 July, 2017.
The Confederations Cup acts as a test event before the 2018 World Cup, also to be hosted in Russia. Nations gain entry by winning their Confederation’s tournament, meaning Australia gained entry through winning the 2015 Asian Cup.
In addition to the six winners of their respective confederation tournaments, the reigning World Cup winners (Germany) and the host nation (Russia) compete.
WHO IS COMPETING?
Click on the links below for profiles of each team.
Australia – 2015 AFC Asian Cup Champions (Asia)
Chile – 2015 Copa America winners (South America)
Germany – 2014 FIFA World Cup Champions
Mexico – 2015 CONCACAF Gold Cup winners (Central America)
New Zealand – 2016 OFC Nations Cup winners (Oceania)
Portugal – EURO 2016 winners (Europe)
Russia – Host Nation
Cameroon – Winner of African Cup of Nations
Note: All dates and times are AEDT.
PODCAST: Daniel Garb, David Weiner and Kate Cohen, back from covering the Socceroos in Adelaide and Melbourne, dissect the state of play and preview the Confeds Cup.
Tuesday June 20, 1am, Fisht Olympic Stadium, Sochi
Friday June 23, 1am, Saint Petersburg Stadium
Monday June 26, 1am, Otkrytie Arena, Moscow
REST OF THE FIXTURES
Russia v New Zealand
Sunday 18 June, 1am
Portugal v Mexico
Monday 19 June, 1am
Cameroon v Chile
Monday 19 June, 1am
Russia v Portugal
Thursday 22 June, 1am
Mexico v New Zealand
Thursday 22 June, 4am
Germany v Chile
Friday 23 June, 4am
Mexico v Russia
Sunday 25 June, 1am
New Zealand v Portugal
Sunday 25 June, 1am
Germany v Cameroon
Monday 26 June, 1am
Winner Group A v Runner-up Group B
Thursday June 29, 4am, Kazan Arena, Kazan
Winner Group B v Runner-up Group A
Friday June 30, 4am, Fisht Olympic Stadium, Sochi
Third place play-off
Loser semi-final 1 v loser semi-final 2
Sunday July 2, 10pm, Saint Petersburg Stadium
Winner semi-final 1 v winner semi-final 2
Monday July 3, 4am, Saint Petersburg Stadium
WHAT IS THE CONFEDERATIONS CUP?
The Confederations Cup is played the year before the World Cup in the host country, as an event where each world and Confederation champion face off.
There are two groups of four with the top two teams then facing off in semi-finals.
The winner of each semi-final progress to the final, while the two losing teams play in the third place play-off.
HOW HAS AUSTRALIA PERFORMED IN THE CONFEDS CUP?
The Socceroos have played in three previous Confederations Cup, qualifying as champions of the Oceania Cup.
The first appearance came in 1997 in Saudi Arabia when Australia reached the final before falling 6-0 to Brazil.
Then four years later in South Korea and Japan in 2001, Australia beat France and Mexico in the group stage before losing 1-0 to Japan in the semi-final.
Australia’s most recent Confederations Cup appearance was in 2005 when they finished bottom of Group A without a point having lost to Germany, Argentina and Tunisia.
Here is how they went in Saudi Arabia (1997), Japan and South Korea (2001) and Germany (2005):
1997 Confederations Cup (Runners Up)
Group stage: Australia 3 d Mexico 1 (Riyadh)
Group stage: Australia 0 drew Brazil 0 (Riyadh)
Group Stage: Saudi Arabia 1 d Australia 0 (Riyadh)
Semi Final: Australia 1 d Uruguay 0 (Riyadh)
Final: Brazil 6 d Australia 0 (Riyadh)
2001 Confederations Cup (third place)
Group stage: Australia 2 d Mexico 0 (Suwon)
Group stage: Australia 1 d France 0 (Daegu)
Group Stage: Korea Republic 1 d Australia 0 (Suwon)
Semi final: Japan 1 d Australia 0 (Yokohama)
3rd place play off: Australia 1 d Brazil 0 (Ulsan)
2005 Confederations Cup (group stage)
Group stage: Germany 4 d Australia 3 (Frankfurt)
Group stage: Argentina 4 d Australia 2 (Nuremberg)
Group stage: Tunisia 2 d Australia 0 (Leipzig)
Mat Ryan (Genk, Belgium), Mitchell Langerak (Stuttgart, Germany), Danny Vukovic (Sydney FC)
Milos Degenek (Yokohama, Japan), Trent Sainsbury (Inter Milan, Italy), Bailey Wright (Bristol City, England), Alex Gersbach (Rosenborg, Norway), Aziz Behich (Bursaspor, Turkey), Dylan McGowan (Pacos de Ferreira, POR), Ryan McGowan (Guizhou Zhicheng, CHI).
James Jeggo (Sturm Grz, Austria), Mark Milligan (Baniyas, UAE), Jackson Irvine (Burton, England), Aaron Mooy (Huddersfield, England), Massimo Luongo (QPR, England), Tom Rogic (Celtic).
Tim Cahill (Melbourne City), Tomi Juric (FC Luzern, Switzerland), Mathew Leckie (Hertha BSC, Germany), Robbie Kruse (Uncontracted), James Troisi (Melbourne Victory), Jamie Maclaren (Darmstadt, GER), Ajdin Hrustic (Groningen, Netherlands).
TEAM BY TEAM PREVIEW courtesy of AP
RUSSIA (World No.63): The hosts will be showing off shiny new venues. Their team has less to brag about. A group-stage exit at last year’s European Championship saw Russia remembered more for fan disorder than its slow and predictable style of play.
PLAYERS: Veteran defenders Vasily Berezutsky and Sergei Ignashevich have both departed, but their younger replacements have yet to make their mark. Fyodor Smolov is the main attacking threat, while fellow forward Alexander Kokorin wasn’t selected. Injuries have depleted the squad, with midfielders Alan Dzagoev and Roman Zobnin missing out, along with forward Artyom Dzyuba.
COACH: Stanislav Cherchesov was hired in August to fix things. After a poor start, Friday’s 1-1 friendly draw with Chile gives some hope.
PORTUGAL (8): Most of the players who helped Portugal win its first major title at Euro 2016 will be back for its Confederations Cup debut. It’s less certain if Portugal will return to Russia for the World Cup. Portugal is second in its qualifying group and only the winner automatically makes the World Cup.
PLAYERS: Cristiano Ronaldo will join up late with the squad as he rests following Real Madrid’s Champions League success. One noticeable absentee in Russia will be Portugal’s Euro 2016 match-winner Eder, who has been dropped.
COACH: Fernando Santos took over Portugal after leading Greece into the World Cup knockout stage for the first time by reaching the last 16 in 2014. He thrived with Portugal at Euro 2016 with a setup that was based on solid defense and effective counterattacking made easier when Ronaldo is in your lineup.
MEXICO (17): Mexico scraped into the 2014 World Cup but the team’s passage to the 2018 tournament has been far smoother and it dominated CONCACAF qualifying.
PLAYERS: Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez arrives in Russia fresh from becoming Mexico’s all-time leading scorer by netting his 47th international goal.
COACH: Juan Carlos Osorio has silenced his critics as the Mexicans set the pace in the CONCACAF qualifiers. The Colombian has lost two games since being hired in 2015 and only one was a competitive fixture.
NEW ZEALAND (95): New Zealand qualified for the Confederations Cup by winning the Oceania Nations’ Cup. Although it is progressing smoothly in World Cup qualifying, Oceania isn’t guaranteed a spot in Russia. That depends on winning a playoff against a South American nation.
PLAYERS: Striker Chris Wood will captain New Zealand after West Ham defender Winston Reid was forced out with a knee injury. Wood was top-scorer in England’s second-tier last season. Bill Tuiloma of Marseilles will be a stabilizing influence in midfield.
COACH: Anthony Hudson has worked hard to change New Zealand’s domestic structures and its mindset. The Englishman doesn’t allow his players to call themselves underdogs, even against the strongest opposition.
GERMANY (3): With six wins out of six in qualifying, Germany is on a smooth path to Russia to mount its World Cup title defense. The Confederations Cup is being used as an opportunity to give untested players more tournament experience.
PLAYERS: Only three World Cup winners are included in Germany’s Confederations Cup squad – Matthias Ginter, Julian Draxler and Shkodran Mustafi – as established team members are given a break. Watch out for the newcomers: Lars Stindl, Amin Younes, Diego Demme, and Sandro Wagner, who claimed a hat trick against San Marino on his competitive debut last Saturday.
COACH: Joachim Loew has led Germany since 2006 after being promoted from Juergen Klinsmann’s assistant and he has a contract through 2020. Loew does not believe in overburdening his players and has often cautioned against the demands of modern football, warning too many games lead to injuries or even shortened careers.
CAMEROON (32): A squad missing many top Europe-based players defied doubters to win the country’s first African title in 15 years in February. It recovered some pride for a team that had become accustomed recently to chaos and failure at major tournaments.
PLAYERS: The speedy and skillful 21-year-old winger Christian Bassogog has emerged as Cameroon’s brightest star and its most creative attacker. He was so good he was rewarded with the player of the tournament award at the African Cup of Nations.
COACH: Cameroon’s resurgence over the last 12 months has coincided with Hugo Broos’ appointment at the beginning of last year. It’s the former Belgium defender’s first job as coach of a national team. Broos hoped to get the South Africa job after the African Cup of nations but he was overlooked.
CHILE (4): Chile beat favorite Argentina in penalty shootouts to win the last two Copa America tournaments and also ended Spain’s World Cup defense in 2014. But Chile is only in the fourth and final automatic qualification place from South America for the 2018 World Cup, just ahead of Argentina.
PLAYERS: The attacking threat should come from Arsenal forward Alexis Sanchez. For versatility there’s midfielder Arturo Vidal, who has helped Bayern Munich to a fifth straight Bundesliga title with his goals and assists.
COACH: Chile coach Juan Antonio Pizzi replaced Jorge Sampaoli last year and built on his Copa America title by lifting the trophy again. The Argentine came from Mexican club Leon and he has also coached Valencia in Spain.
AUSTRALIA (48): On their previous three appearances at the Confederations Cup, the Australians were representing Oceania. After winning the Asian Cup in 2015, they are back as the first country to represent two confederations. Australia, which transferred to the Asian confederation in 2005, is third in Asian World Cup qualifying and might have to contest a playoff against a CONCACAF team to return to Russia next year.
PLAYERS: Tim Cahill is the only surviving member of the squad from Australia’s last Confederations Cup appearance in 2005. Jamie Maclaren has been recalled to the squad and secured a move to German second-tier club Darmstadt after impressing with his scoring prowess with Brisbane Roar.
COACH: Ange Postecoglou is already looking beyond the Australia job for his next challenge in 2018. Before then, the former Australia defender is hoping to confirm the progress he’s made with the country with a strong showing in Russia in the coming weeks as the platform for the World Cup.
HOW DO I WATCH IT IN AUSTRALIA?
SBS and Optus have the broadcast rights to the 2017 Confederations Cup.
STADIUMS courtesy of AFP
With venues spread up to 1,200 miles (1,900 kilometers) apart, the Confederations Cup will certainly be a test of transport links. Policing is another area under scrutiny, while Russian officials are also eager for initially slow ticket sales to speed up.
ST. PETERSBURG: Saint Petersburg Stadium, 68, 134 capacity
Founded in the 18th century as Russia’s “window to Europe,” St. Petersburg has a wealth of historic buildings, palaces and theaters. Its stadium stands out like a sore thumb.
Designed to resemble a spaceship, the bulbous 69,000-seat arena towers above other structures on the Baltic Sea coastline. It’s the problem child of Russia’s World Cup, with repeated cost increases, technical problems and corruption allegations.
Workers who built the stadium faced “issues related to health and safety, timely payment of salaries and accommodation,” according to a FIFA inspection, which also found “strong evidence” that North Korean laborers were used. The field is a particular problem after it cut up badly during two Russian league games in the spring and needed to be relaid. Organizers will be hoping the opening game between Russia and New Zealand on Saturday won’t wreck the new surface, too.
With one of Russia’s most popular clubs, Zenit St. Petersburg, in residence, the stadium’s legacy is secure.
St. Petersburg can be reached by Moscow by plane, in about four hours on a high- speed Sapsan train, or on a slower – and traditionally Russian – overnight train.
KAZAN: Kazan Arena, 45, 379
The Kazan Arena was the blueprint for many of Russia’s new stadiums for the 2018 World Cup with its 45,000 capacity and huge price tag.
It’s also “Exhibit A” for fears about the tournament’s legacy. Only 3,041 fans turned up to watch a Russian league game between Rubin Kazan and FC Krasnodar on April 15, an attendance which would be disappointing almost anywhere in Europe.
Despite Rubin’s two Russian titles and occasional wins over European powers, soccer just hasn’t caught on in Kazan, a city of more than a million people.
Operationally, the stadium has few problems. It opened in 2013 and has hosted the world swimming championships, Russian league games and the international University Games with minimal fuss.
Kazan itself is an old and traditionally Muslim city, though one which wears its religion lightly. There are no restrictions on, for example, alcohol sales. From Moscow, it’s a 90-minute flight or an overnight train ride.
SOCHI: Fisht Stadium – 47, 659
Nestled between ski slopes and the beach, Sochi is Russia’s best-known vacation destination.
Russian organizers hope it’ll be a treat for foreign fans, especially the 47,700-seat Fisht Stadium, which offers views of the Caucasus Mountains at one end and the Black Sea at the other.
The weather should be warm, and strong sea breezes could hurt teams who like to pass the ball long and high.
The stadium was built to host the opening and closing ceremonies for the 2014 Winter Olympics, but lay empty for almost three years after as it was reconfigured ahead of hosting its first soccer game in March. During that time, new seats were installed behind the goals, but tickets haven’t gone on sale for some of those spots at the Confederations Cup because construction remains unfinished.
The stadium also has serious legacy concerns because it’s a half-hour train ride from the city and Sochi’s only professional club is a third-tier side which attracts tiny crowds.
Sochi is a short flight from Moscow, or a 24-hour train ride for adventurous fans.
MOSCOW: Spartak Stadium, 45, 360
The Russian capital’s Confederations Cup venue isn’t the vast Luzhniki Stadium, which hosted the 1980 Olympics and 2008 Champions League final. While Luzhniki is being renovated in time to hold next year’s World Cup final, the spotlight will be on Spartak Moscow’s 45,000-capacity arena across town. The only one of Russia’s 12 World Cup stadiums not built with government money, thanks to Spartak’s oil-billionaire president, it has operated smoothly since opening in 2014.
Attendances were high this season as Spartak won its first league title since 2001, and the stadium security and catering services have coped. Transport links from the center of the city are convenient, with two metro stations nearby.