Today the 9th Confederations Cup begins, being hosted by Brazil. The Confederations Cup takes place a year before the FIFA World Cup, and is used as a dress rehearsal for the hosts. It also brings together the best in the world, as the winners of the 6 confederations’ titles join the hosts and the previous World Cup champions. I’ve chosen one moment for each of the 9 tournaments, plus one moment from before the tournament began. These moments are ranked by date, not importance.
#10. Mundialito Cup
The King Fahd Cup, hosted by Saudi Arabia and consisting of continental champions, was held in 1992 and 1995, and these tournaments are recognized as the first Confederations Cups. However, 12 years earlier a similar tournament was held. The Mundialito (Spanish for “little World Cup”) was hosted by Uruguay to celebrate 50 years of World Cup tournaments. It featured all former World Cup champions, with the exception of the Netherlands, two-time runners-up who replaced, England, who declined their invitation. Uruguay emerged winners, just like the first World Cup, defeating Brazil 2-1 in the final.
#9. Argentina Wins First Final
The first King Fahd Cup only consisted of four teams and had no group stages, meaning Argentina only had to win two matches to take home the title. In their first match, they thrashed African champions Cote d’Ivoire 4-0. Hosts Saudi Arabia awaited in the final, and despite conceding a late goal, Argentina eased to a 3-1 victory, meaning they scored 7 goals and only conceded one throughout the tournament. Argentinian legend Gabriel Batistuta ended the tournament as top scorer.
#8. Denmark Stuns Argentina to Win Cup
The second tournament, at the time still known as the King Fahd Cup, witnessed a massive shock as Denmark, who qualified after being surprise victors at the 1992 Euro, defied the odds to win the tournament. They defeated hosts Saudi Arabia and Mexico, in a penalty shoot-out, to advance to the final, where they faced a formidable Argentinian side. However, the Danes came out on top 2-0. Michael Laudrup, almost unanimously thought of as the greatest Danish player of all time, scored the first goal after only 8 minutes.
#7. Ronaldo and Romario hat-tricks thrash Australia
In the first tournament since FIFA took over and renamed the cup the Confederations Cup, Australia impressed in reaching the final. The Aussies finished second in their group, after defeating Mexico, drawing Brazil, and losing to Saudi Arabia. They had every right to feel confident against Brazil in the final, after all, they held them to a goalless draw in the group stages. But Ronaldo and Romario each scored a hat-trick, as Brazil destroyed Australia 6-0 to emphatically win their first title.
#6. Hosts Mexico defeat Brazil in classic final
Mexico became the first host nation to win the Confederations Cup in 1999 after a truly impressive run. They were blessed with an easy group, and took full advantage, defeating Saudi Arabia and Bolivia and drawing with Egypt to top their group. They then beat hated rivals USA 1-0 after extra time to earn a final match with Brazil. Mexico stunned the favorites by racing to a 2-0 lead. Brazil scored twice to get back to levels terms, only to have Mexico earn their two goal advantage again. Ze Roberto scored to give the Brazilians hope, but they couldn’t find another goal, and the match widely viewed as the greatest in tournament history ended 4-3 in the host’s favor.
#5. Japan Make Surprise Run to Final
Japan proved the positive effects of hosting in 2001 when they surprised everyone by advancing all the way to the final. Japan had qualified by virtue of hosting the co-hosting the World Cup the next year, therefor hosting the Confederations Cup too. But they proved they deserved a place by winning the Asian Cup as well. In the tournament, they topped a group containing Brazil by defeating Canada and thrashing Cameroon, and holding the Brazilians to a goalless draw. They narrowly defeated Australia in the semifinal before losing a close contest to France 1-0 in the final.
#4. Marc-Vivien Foe Dies of Cardiac Arrest
One of the most shocking moments in sports history occurred during Cameroon’s semifinal match against Colombia. In the 72nd minute of the match, Cameroonian Marc-Vivien Foe collapsed on pitch with no players anywhere near him. He was stretchered off and died a little over 30 minutes later. His death was caused by hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, a rare heart disorder causing a risk of death during physical exercise. Cameroon advanced to the final, where they lost to France, who had argued the final should not be played out of respect to Foe. However, almost no one cared about the result. When French captain Marcel Desailly was given the trophy, he held it in unison with Cameroonian captain Rigobert Song, while Thierry Henry celebrated his goal in the final by pointing to the sky, in memory of Foe.
#3. Brazil thrash Argentina in Final
Brazil didn’t exactly have an easy path to the final in the 2005 tournament. Failing to impress in the group stages (with a loss to Mexico and draw with Japan) they still qualified in second place. That meant they had to face hosts Germany in the semifinals, but they triumphed 3-2. The best was yet to come. In the final, the Brazilians showed their brilliance by thrashed their fierce rivals Argentina 4-1. Adriano was both the top scorer and the best player of the tournament, according to FIFA.
#2. Miracle-Makers US Advance to the Final
Going into the final match of the group stages, the US’s tournament looked over. They had been humbled by Brazil and Italy, and faced African giants Egypt. To advance, they needed a win coupled with a Brazil win, and the total needed to amount to a 6 goal difference. Amazingly, the US did their part, thrashing Egypt 3-0 and with some help from the Brazilians, who beat Italy by the same score, they went through. In the semifinals, the US faced a Spanish side who hadn’t lost in 35 matches, a record. But full of confidence, the US won 2-0 and then shocked Brazil by having a two goal lead in the final going into halftime. The Brazilians came back to win 3-2, in a heartbreaking loss for the US, but 2009 remained an unforgettable tournament for Americans.
#1. Tahiti Qualify in Huge Shock
Since the 2013 edition starts today, I can’t exactly go over the results of the tournament. But what has already happened is tiny Tahiti, not even a country but allowed to play by FIFA, has qualified. After New Caledonia stunned favorites New Zealand in the Oceania Nations Cup, Tahiti won in the final to advance to their first ever major tournament. With a population of merely 267,000 (over a tenth smaller than the second-smallest country in the tournament, Uruguay) and a team made up entirely of local players, Tahiti could suffer some record defeats, particularly when they play World Cup champion Spain. But then again, maybe little Tahiti will stun us all.