x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

No home comforts for Brazil at Confederations Cup

Tournament, to be played in June, seen as a stepping stone for hosts ahead of World Cup in 2014.

Brazil and Uruguay are in separate groups, as are Spain and Italy, since teams from the same confederation cannot be pooled together. Sebastiao Moreira / EPA
Brazil and Uruguay are in separate groups, as are Spain and Italy, since teams from the same confederation cannot be pooled together. Sebastiao Moreira / EPA

SAO PAULO // Luiz Felipe Scolari refused to call it a "Group of Death", but Brazil could hardly have landed a tougher draw as they look to defend their Confederations Cup title on home soil next summer.

The host nation will start their campaign against Asian champions Japan, before facing Mexico, winners of the Concacaf Gold Cup, and Italy, who were runners up at this summer's European Championships.

Such are Fifa's rules, teams from the same confederation cannot be paired in the same group, so Brazil already knew they would avoid facing Uruguay, while seeded Spain's obligatory separation from Italy meant Brazil were certain to face Cesare Prandelli's side.

Resultantly, Spain get their campaign underway against Uruguay, before facing Tahiti, the Oceanic champions, as well as whichever team emerges triumphant from the African Cup of Nations in February.

Scolari, the 64 year old who led Brazil to a fifth World Cup title in 2002, was only appointed coach on Thursday after the surprise dismissal of Mano Menezes. His first task as head of the host nation will be try to defend the Confederations Cup, which Brazil won in 2005 and 2009.

"They are each strong teams but a Group of Death? It is nothing like that," Scolari said, "This is the draw, it is good group to be playing in and that is what we want. We want good matches, games that will put us at a checkpoint, that will excite our fans and get them to participate."

Scolari said on Friday that his team's lack of qualifying matches for the World Cup - as hosts, they gain automatic qualification - means next summer's Confederations Cup may become a transition tournament. However, following the draw, he clarified that while success is not essential, it remains the ultimate objective.

"If we play at home and we are doing the utmost efforts to have the World Cup here, we have to consider that we will be playing with a single purpose: to win the Confederations Cup and win the World Cup. That is our goal," he said.

Scolari added Brazil will be seeking revenge in front of home support when they face Mexico, who defeated the Selecao in the final of this summer's Olympic Games.

"The draw represents a possibility of seeing where we went wrong in us not obtaining a victory and this is a very important opponent," he said.

"We know that we are uncomfortable with this team, so will get better prepared for this more than any other opponent."

Jose Manuel de la Torre, the Mexico coach, said the Olympic final, which Mexico won 2-1 in London, is "history" but remains confident his side can emulate their summer success, adding that his side has the "power to beat any team, anywhere".

Yet it is Spain, reigning world and European champions, who will arrive as favourites. While Vicente del Bosque, the head coach, remains "optimistic", he is aware his team must show respect to the opposition.

"There is a huge responsibility on our shoulders due to our recent success," he said. "But remember Uruguay were not so far from us in the World Cup, finishing in fourth place, African champions are always very tough and Tahiti, we do not know much about. We have to come here well prepared."

Spain will face tiny Tahiti, home to a population of just 250,000 residents, in Rio de Janeiro's legendary Maracana.

The Pacific nation's head coach Eddy Etaeta, said it was a dream come true to play in such a "mythical stadium" against the world champions.

"We will try to defend as best as we can and try to limit having goals against us," he said. "If we manage to score a goal, it would be something very special."

Since Brazil's 2005 success at the Confederation Cup in Germany, the tournament has been used as a test event for the World Cup the following year, allowing the local organising committee and Fifa to examine logistics, as well as ironing out possible issues that may arise the next summer.

Dilma Rousseff, the Brazilian President, appeared at the draw in Sao Paulo and is adamant her country will be ready to host both the Confederations Cup and the World Cup 12 months later.

"We are certain that we have prepared ourselves properly to hold an outstanding sports event," she said. "In June 2013, we will show that Brazil has the wherewithal to hold the 2014 World Cup."

gmeenaghan@thenational.ae

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