My fears that we were facing a summer without top-class futbol have proven unfounded. The Confederations Cup tournament, now underway in Brazil, has been a nice reminder that in just over a year or so, there will come a moment when 30 or 40 percent of the world’s population will be simultaneously engaged in the same activity – watching the World Cup final. (And you heard it here first: Spain v. Argentina.) If there is a wisdom of crowds, surely this is telling us something about the species, no?
The Confederations Cup is a weird and interesting tournament. It’s held every 4 years, one year prior to the World Cup, in the host country – it serves as a kind of tuneup for the Big Show, both in terms of seeing whether the logistics (tickets, transport, field conditions, etc.) are all working well, and also to give the national team a first-class workout.
[This is a strange feature of the World Cup qualifying process. The host team -- Brazil, in this case - gets the home field advantage in the tournament, of course, which, in soccer, appears to be an even-more-prevalent phenomenon than in other major sports. But they suffer a serious disadvantage as well: Because they don't have to qualify for the tournament (they're given an automatic spot as the host), they don't have to go through a hard-fought qualifying campaign, a grueling series of high-pressure games that all of the rest of the world's countries are now going through. It can make it very, very difficult to forge a team -- or even to figure out who should be on the team -- when it hasn't played in any tough matches with the pressure turned up. So the Confederations Cup is designed to alleviate that problem a bit.]