Call us on 020 3286 4122
April 13, 2016
As a tournament in its own right the Fifa Confederations Cup has never been considered one of the major events on the football calendar. But in one month, the world will be watching as hosts Brazil kick off a hectic three years of sporting spectacle.
The competition, which will see Brazil face the champions of each continental federation, has become established as a regular warm up to the main event, the World Cup which follows 12 months later. As well as the illustrious hosts, the event will boast European and world champions Spain, South American title-holders Uruguay and Euro 2012 runners-up Italy, as well as the respective champions from Africa, North America, Asia and Oceania.
But the event is perhaps most interesting because it gives sports fans a first look at Brazil’s preparations, not just for the 2014 football tournament but also the 2016 Olympic Games, which will be held in Rio de Janeiro. The awarding of the competition to the South American country was a chance to reward fans in one of the most passionate, loyal football regions on the planet; but it was a decision fraught with difficulty.
As the fifth biggest country in the world, Brazil is the second largest after the United States (in 1994) to be give the honour of hosting the sporting event. Of course, it is not a novelty for the nation, who first received the World Cup back in 1950. But the scale and magnitude of the event was far smaller than the competition we will see in 12 months.
While in 1950 Brazil used six venues, five of which were based in the more-developed south and south-eastern regions, in 2014 the World Cup will move across the country. From Fortaleza to Porto Alegre north to south, and Manaus to Natal east to west, there are a total of 12 host cities, with varying levels of connectivity and transport infrastructure. Brazil’s great distances did not pose such a problem 63 years ago when supporter travel was almost non-existent, but now millions of fans will travel to the country to witness the World Cup, and organisers are fighting against the clock to make sure they are ready to greet them.
Early signs have been mixed. The ailing transport network was identified as the bid’s principal weakness, and although it has been slow and painstaking progress has been made to improve airports and other infrastructure outside of the international hubs of Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro. Stadiums have been constructed with a similar plodding place, while in a country that suffers from a not inconsiderable crime rate, fears over security still must be answered.
This was underlined last month during a test match in Castelao, the Fortaleza stadium that will hold games in the city, when two Ceara fans were shot dead by supporters of the opposing team following a particularly tense derby. Rio’s iconic Maracana stadium, meanwhile, is well behind schedule for remodelling, while another stadium in the city has been closed indefinitely due to safety fears.
The Brazilian government, as well as the local football federation and World Cup organisers, dismiss worries and are certain that their event will go off without a hitch. After all, it is almost traditional for the country to leave things until the last minute; the Maracana’s first inception, built for 1950, was still unfinished and had no toilet facilities when the tournament kicked off. But times have changed since those chaotic post-war days, and no lack of attention to detail will be tolerated as the world’s football fanatics prepare to descend on South America in a year’s time.
The Confederations Cup then, besides bringing some of the best teams in the world together, is a crucial dress rehearsal for Brazil as they seek to prove their new-claimed status as a budding economic and political power. A successful tournament, without problems for either players, fans nor locals, would be a huge relief for organisers, and increase expectations that 2014 will be a World Cup to remember for all the right reasons.