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The Confederations Cup may be a dress rehearsal for the World Cup

The Confederations Cup has been going since 1992 although for the first two editions it was called the King Fahd Cup and took place in Saudi Arabia. For the next four editions it was held in 'random' countries until in 2005 it started being hosted by the country where the next year's World Cup was to be held.

Brazil is by far the most successful country in the competition with four wins, including all of the last three editions. France have won it twice, Mexico, Argentina and Denmark one each.

Let's work out the best bet to win the 2017 edition. 
A South American or European team has won every edition other than when Mexico won it on home soil in 1999, beating Brazil in the final. Given this record and the fact that only European and South American teams have won the World Cup, it's fair to say that there's a significant gulf in class between the great champs from those two continents and the rest of the world. 

So with that in mind we can cross off New Zealand, Cameroon and Australia straight away. We can cross off Russia too because they were unbelievably poor at Euro 2016 and it's hard to see how they can have improved in such a short space of time. The fact they're hosts works both ways. It might help them a bit in terms of support and familiarity but it's worth remembering they're only there...because they're hosts.

And I'll cross off Mexico too. That sole triumph of theirs was at home, this isn't a great crop of players and the Gold Cup is one of the easier of the tournaments (that leads to a Confederations Cup spot) to win.



Germany 

If Germany were close to full-strength you wouldn't expect them to be any bigger than about 2.50. Defending world champions, they were on course to follow that up with Euro 2016 success until they came across an inspired France side in the semis.

But they're nowhere near full-strength. Toni Kroos, Thomas Muller, Mesuz Ozil and Marco Reus were rested after long seasons and injury helped make Jogi Low's mind up for him regarding Leroy Sane, Mario Gotze, Manuel Neuer and Julian Weigl. That leaves a squad where Julian Draxler, Emre Can and Shkodran Mustafi are probably the best known names and it resembles more a squad for the Olympic Games with three 'senior' players than a full-strength one desperate to win the competition.

That's not to say that a younger squad can't make a good account of themselves. And under Low, they'll be guided by a man who' s seen it all before.

The experience gained will be invaluable and they'll be better for it next summer.

But right here, right now, it's a huge ask for this group of players to go all the way. They're also in the tougher group, joined by a mercurial Cameroon, Chile and Australia. At their current price, we'll leave them.


Chile 

It's quite remarkable that Chile won back-to-back Copa Americas when you consider the strength in depth of South American football. You could be critical and say that both finals were won on penalties, but so what? You could also point out that they were both against Argentina so deserve credit for holding a team like that in the first place. A year before that they were pretty good at the World Cup, unlucky to lose on penalties against hosts Brazil. That shows they can perform outside the Copa America.

No prizes for guessing who their key men are. It's been a long old season for Alexis Sanchez but this guy just loves playing football, never seems to tire, never seems to want a break and always gives 100%, even when he's not at 100%. So not too dissimilar to say...Cristiano Ronaldo. He'll be expected to carry the side in attack, a bit like he's often expected to do for Arsenal.

You could say many of the same things about Arturo Vidal. The Bayern man was a mammoth figure for the Bavarians in the middle of the park this season and has the slightly unusual role of being both a ball-winner and a goalscorer.

Manchester City keeper Claudio Bravo and the versatile Gary Medel of Inter Milan are other notable inclusions. This is a well-drilled side used to playing together and no strangers to going all the way at a big tournament.

They look over-priced to win Group B. I wouldn't be at all surprised if their match with Germany ended in a draw and the extra experience within the squad may help them to get over the line against the other two in the group.

Portugal 

It's unlikely Portugal will replicate their Euro 2016 success anytime soon at another Euros or World Cup. Yes, they deserved it because they fought so hard, were so brilliant in defence and came out on top in all the big moments. But they did also benefit from a very favourable draw and at times rode their luck.

But a small tournament like this is another story. It might be right up their street. I actually think the side they have now is better than the one that won Euro 2016 last summer. For starters, new AC Milan recruit Andre Silva gives them an excellent new option in attack. Cristiano Ronaldo doesn't like playing as a target man but the powerful former Porto striker does and can be the focal point in attack, allowing Ronaldo to play off him or provide him with service.

They can also count on new Manchester City signing Bernardo Silva on the wing, fresh from an excellent season with Ligue 1 winners Monaco. And if things are looking a little pedestrian, they can bring on Sporting Lisbon's Gelson Martins, a pacy, tricky, unpredictable forward who does what all defenders hate- he runs at them. So more options in attack than they had last summer whilst maintaining the solid midfield and excellent defence that brought them glory in France.

After a somewhat understandable hangover in their first competitive match after their Euro success where they lost away to Switzerland, they've been excellent, winning five in a row and scoring 22 goals.

With everyone available, in the easier group, Ronaldo hungry for more goals and with an ability to come good in tight matches, they look the best prepared team to win it.





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