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Is the Confederations Cup really Mickey Mouse?

10 Feb 2003(Mon)

The draw for the 2003 FIFA Confederations Cup will take place in France on Wednesday.

This is when Japan will know their fate, and their three first-round opponents for the eight-team tournament in France next June.

But there are many people in the game who will not be looking forward to the draw, or even to the tournament itself, because they feel there is just too much football being played.

Critics of the tournament, which brings together the champion nations of FIFA's six continental federations, plus the World Cup holders (Brazil) and an invited guest (Turkey), would prefer the Confederations Cup to be scrapped.

These include Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger, and one of his French stars, Robert Pires.

"Germany, Italy and Spain refused to play in this Mickey Mouse cup," Wenger said this week.

"France will play New Zealand! That is really exciting," he added, very sarcastically.

(This is not a fact, either, as the draw is not until February 12.)

Pires, who was the 2001 Confederations Cup MVP when it was held in South Korea and Japan, has been very critical of the timing of the tournament.

It starts five weeks after the European club season has finished, and Pires says players will risk injury for the new season because they will not be in good condition.

Even though I thoroughly enjoyed the 2001 edition in Japan, watching Brazil, Cameroon, Canada, Australia and France all play in Japan, I have to agree with Wenger.

There is too much football, and too much demand on the players.

The World Cup gives the players little rest once every four summers, and the European Championship does the same.

This means two of every four summers are filled with top-class international football, leaving only two summers free every four years for the players and the fans to have a break.

With the Confederations Cup to be played every two years, this crowds the calendar even more.

For example: European Championship in 2000, Confederations Cup 2001, World Cup 2002, Confederations Cup 2003, European Championship 2004 (in Portugal), Confederations Cup 2005 (in Germany), World Cup in 2006 (in Germany)!

It's crazy!

The eight teams to play in this year's Confederations Cup are: France and Turkey from Europe, Brazil and Colombia from South America, Cameroon from Africa, the United States from CONCACAF, New Zealand from Oceania and, of course, Japan from Asia, after Philippe Troussier's team won the Asian Cup in Lebanon in 2000.

The teams will be drawn into two groups of four, and FIFA has already decided that the European teams and South American teams will be in different groups.

This means that Brazil and Turkey will be in one group, with France and Colombia in the other.

Japan could get an extremely tough group if Zico's men are in with Brazil, Turkey and the United States. I think Japan would be lucky to even draw one of these games, never mind win one.

On the other hand, France, Colombia and New Zealand would give Japan a chance to finish in the top two and qualify for the semifinals.

But on current rankings, you would have to say that only New Zealand is weaker than Japan, so whichever teams Japan must play will be difficult.

Pires does not want to play. Wenger does not want any of his highly-paid players to play.

Maybe FIFA should listen more carefully to the critics.


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