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FIFA Confed Cup: The final four and the journey so far

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PHOTO:AFP

After twelve matches and thirty-four goals, the FIFA Confederations Cup has entered its final stage and four champions will battle it out for the title. I will do a quick review of what we have observed in the competition so far before going ahead to preview the semi-finals.

One of the biggest talking points in this competition has been the trial run of the Video Assistant Referees which has gotten mixed reactions. VAR involves two video assistant referees who monitor the action on screens and draw the match referee’s attention to officiating mistakes. Personally, I think it has worked well so far because in the 12 group-stage matches that have been played, it helped correct six ‘game-changing decisions’ and ruled correctly on another twenty-nine ‘major incidents’ according to Massimo Busacca, FIFA Referees chief.

Critics of the technology have pointed out that it kills the momentum of the game and also removes a bit of humanity. I believe what it just needs is a little bit of fine-tuning and fans will get used to it in a matter of time.

Traditionally, this competition has been used by the host nation to show their preparedness and readiness to host the World Cup in the next year and on that footing, the Russians have clearly impressed and seem to be very ready to welcome the world for the biggest footballing festival next summer.

From beautiful stadia to impressive turnouts at matches to a proper organization of this tournament, it’s very obvious that the Motherland is prepared to welcome and host the rest of the world. FIFA secretary general Fatma Samoura even paid tribute to the staff and volunteers for helping the tournament progress without any major hiccups.

African Champions, Cameroun were underwhelming in this tournament as they were only able to garner just one point from their three games. They were let down by their inaccuracy in front of goal as they were unable to convert the numerous chances they created. Australia gave a good account of themselves as they were able to hold Chile and Cameroun to a draw and lost just narrowly to Germany, while their neighbours, New Zealand were unable to get a point from all three group games they played. Perhaps, the most disappointing team was the host nation, Russia. They lost to Mexico and Portugal and were only able to defeat New Zealand as they exited in the group stage’

The first semi-final of the competition will be played tonight between Portugal and Chile and for a lot of football fans; they would have preferred this game to be the final.

The European champions have acquitted themselves brilliant so far by finishing top of their group with two wins and a draw. They have scored a total of seven goals and conceded just two, which were in their opening game against Mexico. They have also shown that they are not just about Cristiano Ronaldo as five of their seven goals have been scored by five different players, showing that they can come at you from all sides.

Chile’s all-round game is rock-solid and Juan Antonio Pizzi’s squad is probably the most battle-hardened in world football. They were tipped to win Group B, due to Germany’s depleted squad. However, they finished second, managing to win just once from their three matches. One of their biggest problems has been their poor finishing, despite their ability to create a high number of chances. This game will be a tight one to call and I think both teams will cancel themselves out and we will likely see extra-time and most probably the lotto of penalty shoot-out.

Tomorrow night will be the turn of the Germans and the Mexicans to battle for a place in for Sunday’s final. This experimental German team has been very impressive in this competition winning their group with two victories and a very impressive draw against Chile. Captain Julian Draxler has looked bright, while Leon Goretzka, Lars Stindl and Timo Werner have also weighed in with goals. Their weakness is at the back as they have conceded five goals in three games and they also seem to have a goalkeeping problem as the two they have used in their three games haven’t inspired a lot of confidence.

The Mexicans will be a very difficult team to break down as they have shown how resilient they can be in this tournament by being in a losing position in all three group games yet not losing any of them. They also have very tricky forwards and will always capitalize on any defensive errors, so the Germans cannot afford any slip up at the back. This should be a high scoring affair and I think the Germans will come out victorious at the end of the day.



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