The 2017 FIFA Confederations Cup in Russia has just been concluded; with World Champions Germany confirming themselves as 'Champion of Champions'. The Confed Cup (for anyone new to football) is a tournament featuring the 6 continental champions from FIFA associations: UEFA (Europe), CAF (Africa), CONCACAF (North America), CONMEBOL (South America), AFC (Asia) and OFC (Oceania). To make up the 8 teams, the current World Cup holders and the host nation are added to the mix.
Here are some talking points from the just concluded tournament:
1. The future of German football is very very bright.
Germany finished as champions of the Confed Cup (as most people expected). However, what most didn't expect is that they would do it with the quality of personnel they took to the tournament. Granting the summer off to established stars such as Thomas Muller, Manuel Neuer, Mesut Ozil, Jerome Boateng, Toni Kroos, Mats Hummels etc., the world champions fielded a very youthful and inexperienced side. Captained by 23-year old PSG attacker Julian Draxler, the average age of the team is just over 24; with young guns such as RB Leipzig's Timo Werner, Leverkusen's Julian Brandt, Moenchengladbach's Lars Stindl to name a few on show. These are players with less than 10 senior caps each, and still managed to best some more established teams at the tournament. The future of the German national team may require some serious sun shades to behold...
2. Chile not quite an elite team........just yet.
Chile put in a very accomplished showing at the tournament, finishing as runners up to a deserving German side; who they earlier finished as runners-up to in the group stages. However, as evidenced by the number of clear chance misses in the final, Chile are still quite a long way from totally dominating South American football, much less the world. With stars such as Alexis Sanchez and Arturo Vidal, Chile possess the personnel to make an impact but still seem like an efficient finisher away from being able to truly hang with the big boys on the world stage. Eduardo Vargas needs to step up a notch.
3. African teams still 'completing the number' at FIFA tournaments.
African champions Cameroun didn't really have the best of tournaments. Failing to win a match and scoring just 2 goals en route to being bottom of the group, their best achievement was stopping Germany from scoring for 45 minutes. Not much of a surprise though, as African teams generally perform poorly at FIFA competitions at senior level. The continent seems a long way from producing a team to challenge for such a competition. The best they can hope for now is 'thanks for coming'.
4. Football takes centre stage as racism takes a backseat.
One of the biggest worries coming into the Russia-hosted Confed Cup was the issue of racism; a prevalent trend in the country. FIFA's 'Say No To Racism' campaign looked set to be tested at the tournament, however there were minor, if any racism related issues as the quality of football on show was the focus. 43 goals were scored in the tournament, with an average of 2.69 goals per game to make for an entertaining spectacle. Hopefully, football also takes centre stage at next year's World Cup.
5. Video assistant referee (VAR), a good innovation or unnecessary burden?
FIFA used the tournament to debut the new video assistant referee, an official who reviews decisions and controversial moments using video evidence. It seemed like the answer to poor officiating calls in the sport, as replays would lead to better decisions being made by officials. During the tournament, there were reasons to justify the use of the system, while there were also instances which embarrassed the idea. The system is meant to be used to review 4 major decision types: Goals; whether there was any violation in the build-up, Penalty decisions, Red cards and Mistaken identity *coughs in Oxlade-Chamberlain and Kieran Gibbs*.
The system helped with some correct calls on goals involving violations in the build up, however decisions on penalties and red cards would still pose a problem as these would come down to the referee's decision; which could either be right or wrong; thereby killing the whole point of having the system in the first place which was to avoid wrong calls. An example was in the 2nd half of the final where Chile's Gonzalo Jara appeared to elbow Germany's Timo Werner in the face. Despite the referee using VAR to review what seemed like a spot on sending off, he elected to show Jara just a yellow card, much to the surprise of the spectators and even the defender himself. Much to improve on with the development at this stage.
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