It's been a busy time over on my ice-hockey blog, what with the World Championships and the Stanley Cup in North America. Now the turn has come to football with the dress rehearsals for next year's World Cup, the Confederations Cup, starting yesterday in South Africa and the UEFA U21 Championships starting this evening in my adopted country, Sweden.
For those not aware, the FIFA Confederations Cup is a tournament held by the hosts of the coming World Cup to fine-tune and test their preparations for the "big one" a year later. Competing nations are reigning FIFA World Champions Italy, UEFA Euro 2008 winners Spain, 2008 Africa Cup of Nations winner Egypt, Asian Cup 2007 winner Iraq, 2007 CONCACAF winners USA, winners of the 2007/08 OFC Nations Cup New Zealand, winners of the Copa America 2007 Brazil and host nation South Africa. First teams out yesterday were hosts South Africa and Iraq in front of a less than capacity crowd in Johannesburg. We had been promised a South African team that had more to prove than just their football skills. They seemed to forget this in the first half and Iraq seemed to be superior when it came to team tactics. The second half started much differently with SA coming out playing a much tougher game. South Africa all but scored late in the second half when Iraq goalie Kasid failed to stop a cross that SA's Dikgacoi headed towards goal, only for the ball to bounce off team mate Parker and away to safety.
After a somewhat disappointing opening game, Spain showed us all how to do it against New Zealand in the evening's second match. There was never any doubt where the three points would end up as Torres completely destroyed the Kiwis with an 11-minute hat trick in the first seventeen minutes of the game! Spain finally came away 5-0 winners in a match that only confirmed the difference in class between FIFA's various confederations. But that's what football's all about - it really is a global sport.
This evening stages the first matches in the UEFA U-21 Championships with matches England - Finland and Spain - Germany, with hosts Sweden playing tomorrow against Belarus and Italy against Serbia later in the evening.
All the best.