The Confederations Cup kicks off this week in Russia. It is the test event for the World Cup that takes place a year before the big event in the host country. It features the host, the defending champion, and the current champion of each of the six international confederations. It's always a tough tournament to call, but this year it is just a little bizarre. Australia has moved to the AFC to enjoy a higher level of competition. They are representing their new confederation. Their former group, the OFC, is now ridiculously weak, and New Zealand represents it here for the first time. Germany is bringing what can kindly be called an experimental squad. Russia is a team lacking an identity and struggling with injuries. Chile, shockingly, is here in place of South American powers Brazil or Argentina. It's far from the field you might expect, and it's a tough field to judge.
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The tournament kicks off on June 17, with games played in St. Petersburg, Moscow, Socki and Kazan. The final will be played on July 2 in St. Petersburg. The teams are split into two groups of four - Russia, New Zealand, Portugal and Mexico in Group A and Germany, Australia, Cameroon and Chile in Group B. Each team will play the other three in their group, and then the top team in Group A will play the runner-up in Group B for a berth in the finals, and vice versa.
Here's a look at the eight squads, with odds from BetOnline :
Germany (+120): Germany is well poised to be a big threat to defend their 2014 World Cup title, but they certainly aren't taking this event seriously as a key step to prepare for that tournament. Seven German players will make their International debut in this tournament, and five stars of the German team have not been named to this roster. Coach Joachim Low sees the tournament more as a developmental one than a major one, and that makes them very difficult to judge. Germany took a similar approach in 2005 when they were hosting the tournament. They played an inexperienced squad to gain experience and won their group before falling to eventual champions Brazil in the semifinals. The Germans are certainly deep, but it's tough to get too excited about them at this price given the attitude. Frankly, anything from an easy win of the tournament to a failure to advance seems possible - though if they can't get out of their group they have issues.
Portugal (+250): Portugal is riding high after a big win in Euro 2016. Now they need to prove that they can continue to carry momentum forward. They will have a more representative squad than Germany, and they are in a group that should be manageable. If they can stay healthy and show that they are invested in the tournament then they have a good situation to make it all the way. Given the approaches of the teams, I like this price a lot more than I like Germany. If I were to bet on one team this would be it.
Chile (+350): This team is here after a shocking win of the 2015 Copa America at home. Since then, though, things have been rocky, and they have not looked particularly strong in qualifying. The talent is significant, and they can obviously get hot and do real damage, but they have really lacked consistency and focus in the last year or two. I like their chances of advancing, but Portugal will be a big problem for them in the elimination rounds.
Russia (+800): This host team is hard to love. They aren't nearly as bad as South Africa was two back, but they are not nearly as inspiring as Brazil was last time. They don't have a lot of big-time international success to their credit, they lack a top-level star, the coaching is inconsistent, they have been hit with injuries, and they really aren't a great team right now. They are playing at home, though, and should be highly motivated. Very tough to judge, but I don't see any value.
Mexico (+1000): The Mexicans won this tournament in 1999 and are regulars here. They aren't coming into this one in a great place, though, after a draw at home against the Americans in a game they should have won on June 11. They have some roster issues, too, and they are tough to get too excited about, though they could easily advance beyond the first round. Not a horrible long shot pick, but not a likely winner, either.
Cameroon (+1600), Australia (+3300), New Zealand (+10000): We can group these three together because none of them are any good, and they will all count themselves lucky just to get a single win. You would be a serious sucker if you bet on any of them.
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