We may still have one more year until the 2018 World Cup in Russia, but that doesn’t mean a boring summer is approaching.
Beginning Saturday, Russia will host the 2017 FIFA Confederations Cup. This will be a debut for the hosts in this competition, as well for Chile and Portugal.
In Group A, hosts Russia will look to bounce back from a disappointing exit in last year’s Euro 2016 tournament. Russia is paired with Euro 2016 winners Portugal, CONCACAF Cup winners Mexico, and OFC Nations Cup winners New Zealand.
Group B features 2014 World Cup winner Germany, who is looking for their first ever Confederations Cup title. 2015 and 2016 Copa America winners Chile is making its debut in this competition, while Asian Cup winner Australia will look to pull an upset or two. African Cup of Nations winners Cameroon is making its first appearance since 2003.
Here is a closer look at all eight participants in this year’s Confederations Cup, which kicks off on Saturday:
June 17: Russia vs. New Zealand (FS1) 11:00 A.M.
June 18: Portugal vs. Mexico (FS1) 11:00 A.M.
June 21: Russia vs. Portugal (FS1) 11:00 A.M.
June 21: Mexico vs. New Zealand (FS1) 2:00 P.M.
June 24: Mexico vs. Russia (FOX) 11:00 A.M.
June 24: New Zealand vs. Portugal (FS1) 11:00 A.M.
PLAYERS TO WATCH: Igor Akinfeev, Yuri Zhirkov, Aleksandr Golovin, Fyodor Smolov
NAME TO LEARN: Fyodor Smolov. With no double-digit goalscorer on the current roster for this competition, it may be hard for Russia to score consistently. Smolov, 27, has been a consistent scorer for Krasnodar in the Russian Premiership. He has 38 goals in 51 appearances for Krasnodar, and will be relied on to start-up top for Stanislav Cherchesov’s side.
Goalkeepers: Igor Akinfeev (CSKA Moscow), Vladimir Gabulov (Arsenal Tula), Guilherme (Lokomotiv Moscow)
Defenders: Georgy Dzhikiya (Spartak Moscow), Fyodor Kudryashov (FC Rostov), Ilya Kutepov (Spartak Moscow), Roman Shishkin (FC Krasnodar), Igor Smolnikov (Zenit St. Petersburg), Viktor Vasin (CSKA Moscow), Dmitry Kombarov (Spartak Moscow)
Midfielders: Yuri Gazinsky (FC Krasnodar), Denis Glushakov (Spartak Moscow), Alexander Golovin (CSKA Moscow), Alexei Miranchuk (Lokomotiv Moscow), Alexander Samedov (Spartak Moscow), Dmitry Tarasov (Lokomotiv Moscow), Alexander Yerokhin (FC Rostov), Yuri Zhirkov (Zenit St. Petersburg), Ruslan Kambolov (Rubin Kazan)
Forwards: Alexander Bukharov (FC Rostov), Maxim Kannunikov (Rubin Kazan), Dmitry Poloz (FC Rostov), Fyodor Smolov (FC Krasnodar)
OUTLOOK: Despite being the hosts of the competition, Russia will have a tough time advancing from their group. Dealing with broad attacking sides like Portugal and Mexico, Russia will need to tighten it up on the back-end. An opening match against New Zealand is certainly winnable, but it will get harder for the hosts as they go through their opening matches.
PLAYERS TO WATCH: Glen Moss, Michael McGlinchey, Shane Smeltz, Chris Wood.
NAME TO LEARN: Chris Wood. At 25, Wood seems to have found a home with English second tier side, Leeds United. After spells at West Bromwich Albion and Leicester City did not work out, Wood joined Leeds in 2015. Wood has averaged a goal every two matches for Leeds, as he continues to help them fight for promotion to the Premiership.
Goalkeepers: Stefan Marinovic (Unterhaching), Tamati Williams (Waalwijk), Glen Moss (Newcastle Jets)
Defenders: Andrew Durante (Wellington Phoenix), Thomas Doyle (Wellington Phoenix), Storm Roux (Central Coast Mariners), Michael Boxall (SuperSport United), Kip Colvey (San Jose Earthquakes), Themi Tzimopoulos (Giannina), Deklan Wynne (Vancouver Whitecaps), Sam Brotherton (Sunderland), Tommy Smith (Ipswich Town), Dane Ingham (Brisbane Roar)
Midfielders: Bill Tuiloma (Marseille), Clayton Lewis (Auckland City), Michael McGlinchey (Wellington Phoenix), Ryan Thomas (PEC Zwolle)
Forwards: Chris Wood (Leeds United), Monty Patterson (Ipswich Town), Shane Smeltz (Borneo), Kosta Barbarouses (Wellington Phoenix), Marco Rojas (Melbourne Victory), Alex Rufer (Wellington Phoenix)
OUTLOOK: New Zealand is making its first appearance in this competition since 2009, and will look to play spoiler in Group A. Facing off with hosts, Russia in the opening match will be a good tune-up for their later matches against the two heavyweights in this group. Chris Wood will be relied to score goals for the team, while Shane Smeltz is also a threat off the bench.
PLAYERS TO WATCH: Hector Moreno, Carlos Vela, Hector Herrera, Javier Hernandez.
NAME TO LEARN: Hirving Lozano. The 21-year-old Lozano has quickly seen his name on the radar of several European clubs this summer. Since joining Pachuca in 2014, Lozano has scored 31 goals in 120 appearances. He is a talented winger that still has a bright future ahead of him, and Mexico will look to reap the benefits in this competition and beyond.
Goalkeepers: Guillermo Ochoa (Granada), Alfredo Talavera (Deportivo Toluca), Rodolfo Cota (Chivas Guadalajara)
Defenders: Diego Reyes (Espanyol), Nestor Araujo (Santos Laguna), Carlos Salcedo (Fiorentina), Rafael Marquez (Atlas), Hector Moreno (PSV Eindhoven), Luis Reyes (Atlas)
Midfielders: Andres Guardado (PSV Eindhoven), Jonathan dos Santos (Villarreal), Hector Herrera (Porto), Oswaldo Alanis (Chivas Guadalajara), Miguel Layun (Porto), Giovani dos Santos (LA Galaxy), Carlos Vela (Real Sociedad), Javier Aquino (Tigres)
Forwards: Marco Fabian (Eintracht Frankfurt), Javier Hernandez (Bayer Leverkusen), Raul Jimenez (Benfica), Hirving Lozano (Pachuca), Oribe Peralta (Club America)
OUTLOOK: Out of their six previous appearances in this tournament, Mexico has only claimed the silverware once. Juan Carlos Osorio’s team has a busy summer with their involvement also in the CONCACAF Gold Cup, starting in July. With an experienced squad picked for this competition, Mexico will be expected to make a splash and advance out of Group A.
PLAYERS TO WATCH: Raphael Guerreiro, Andre Gomes, Bernardo Silva, Cristiano Ronaldo.
NAME TO LEARN: Bernardo Silva. After helping Monaco to their first league title since 2000, Bernardo Silva made the jump to one of Europe’s biggest clubs. Joining Manchester City, Silva will get to play under Pep Guardiola come this August. Scoring 24 times in 101 appearances for the municipality side, Silva brings a dynamic element to Portugal’s build-up play and is quickly on the rise in Europe’s midfield pool.
Goalkeepers: Rui Patricio (Sporting), Beto (Sporting), Jose Sa (Porto)
Defenders: Nelson Semedo (Benfica), Cedric Soares (Southampton), Pepe (Real Madrid), Bruno Alves (Cagliari), Luis Neto (Zenit), Jose Fonte (Southampton), Raphael Guerreiro (Borussia Dortmund), Eliseu (Benfica)
Midfielders: William Carvalho (Sporting), Danilo (Porto), Joao Moutinho (Monaco), Pizzi (Benfica), Andre Gomes (Barcelona), Adrien Silva (Sporting), Bernardo Silva (Monaco)
Forwards: Cristiano Ronaldo (Real Madrid), Ricardo Quaresma (Besiktas), Gelson Martins (Sporting), Andre Silva (Porto), Nani (Valencia)
OUTLOOK: After their Euro title a year ago, Portugal is a favorite to win this competition. Led by Cristiano Ronaldo, Portugal brings a dangerous group of attacking talent to Russia in their debut in this competition. Ronaldo, who was expected to receive a break this summer after lifting the Champions League crown in early June, shows no signs of slowing down.
June 18: Cameroon vs. Chile (FS2) 2:00 P.M.
June 19: Australia vs. Germany (FS1) 11:00 A.M.
June 22: Cameroon vs. Australia (FS1) 11:00 A.M.
June 22: Germany vs. Chile (FS1) 2:00 P.M.
June 25: Germany vs. Cameroon (FOX) 11:00 A.M.
June 25: Chile vs. Australia (FS1) 11:00 A.M.
PLAYERS TO WATCH: Jonas Hector, Julian Draxler, Julian Brandt, Timo Werner.
NAME TO LEARN: Julian Brandt. At 21, Julian Brandt is one of the up and coming stars in the Bundesliga. Brandt has already made 98 appearances for Bayer Leverkusen, and has also featured as low as the Germany U-15 National Team. Brandt is a talented attacking midfielder, who is also coming off his first goal for Germany in last weekend’s World Cup Qualifier against San Marino.
Goalkeepers: Bernd Leno (Bayer Leverkusen), Marc-Andre Ter Stegen (Barcelona), Kevin Trapp (PSG)
Defenders: Matthias Ginter (Borussia Dortmund), Jonas Hector (Cologne), Benjamin Henrichs (Bayer Leverkusen), Joshua Kimmich (Bayern Munich), Shkodran Mustafi (Arsenal), Marvin Plattenhardt (Hertha Berlin), Antonio Rudiger (Roma), Niklas Sule (Hoffenheim)
Midfielders: Julian Draxler (PSG), Leon Goretzka (Schalke), Kerem Demirbay (Hoffenheim), Lars Stindl (Borussia Monchengladbach), Emre Can (Liverpool), Amin Younes (Ajax), Julian Brandt (Bayer Leverkusen), Sebastian Rudy (Hoffenheim)
Forwards: Sandro Wagner (Hoffenheim), Timo Werner (Leipzig)
OUTLOOK: If anyone is built to give Portugal a run for the silverware, Germany is designed to do so. Despite many key stars left off the roster, Germany has a lot of youthful and exciting talent to look forward too. With zero player over the age of 30 on this current roster, Germany could still roll their way into the knockout rounds.
PLAYERS TO WATCH: Claudio Bravo, Arturo Vidal, Alexis Sanchez, Eduardo Vargas.
NAME TO LEARN: Eduardo Vargas. Despite not getting the world-known recognition that Sanchez or Vidal gets, Eduardo Vargas has been a consistent scorer for Chile. In 70 international appearances, Vargas has tallied 32 goals so far and is a physical option up front. He is a poacher in front of goal and has been able to come up with the goods for Chile in the past.
Goalkeepers: Claudio Bravo (Manchester City), Christopher Toselli (Universidad Catolica), Johnny Herrera (Universidad de Chile)
Defenders: Eugenio Mena (Sport Recife), Enzo Roco (Cruz Azul), Mauricio Isla (Cagliari), Paulo Diaz (San Lorenzo), Jean Beausejour (Universidad de Chile), Gary Medel (Inter), Gonzalo Jara (Universidad de Chile)
Midfielders: Francisco Silva (Cruz Azul), Jose Fuenzalida (Universidad Catolica), Arturo Vidal (Bayern Munich), Pablo Hernandez (Celta Vigo), Felipe Gutierrez (Internacional), Charles Aranguiz (Bayer Leverkusen), Marcelo Diaz (Celta Vigo)
Forwards: Alexis Sanchez (Arsenal), Angelo Sagal (Huachipato), Eduardo Vargas (Tigres UANL), Martin Rodriguez (Cruz Azul), Leonardo Valencia (Palestino), Edson Punch (Necaxa)
OUTLOOK: Winners of the last two Copa America competitions, Chile is also a threat to be reckoned with this summer in Russia. With key stars Arturo Vidal and Alexis Sanchez chosen, Chile should have zero problem getting out of Group B. Despite a disappointing campaign in Manchester last season, Claudio Bravo is still one of the world’s best keepers.
PLAYERS TO WATCH: Joseph Ondoa, Georges Mandjeck, Vincent Aboubakar, Benjamin Moukandjo.
NAME TO LEARN: Benjamin Moukandjo. At 28, Moukandjo is coming off his best domestic campaign a year ago. Scoring back-to-back 13 goal seasons with Ligue 1 outfit Lorient, Moukandjo is expected to bring that scoring rate to Cameroon this summer. He is a clinical finisher in front of goal, and can cause mismatch problems for opposing defenders.
Goalkeepers: Joseph Ondoa (Sevilla), Georges Bokwe (Mjondalen), Andre Onana (Ajax)
Defenders: Ernest Mabouka (MSK Zilina), Adolphe Teikeu (Sochaux), Michael Ngadeu (Slavia Prague), Jerome Guihoata (Panionios), Collins Fai (Standard Liege), Lucien Owona (Alcorcon), Jonathan Ngwem (Sambizanga)
Midfielders: Andre Zambo Anguissa (Marseille), Georges Mandjeck (FC Metz), Sebastien Siani (Oostende), Arnaud Djoum (Hearts)
Forwards: Nicolas Ngamaleu (Rheindof), Benjamin Moukandjo (Lorient), Jacques Zoua (Kaiserslautern), Vincent Aboubakar (Besiktas), Olivier Boumal (Panathinaikos), Christian Bassogog (Henan Jianye), Robert Tambe Ndip (Spartak Trnava), Karl Toko (Angers)
OUTLOOK: Since the days of Samuel Eto’o leading the line for Cameroon, it has been very tough to find consistent scorers. That will also be the problem for this side in Russia. With matches against Germany and Chile, Cameroon will need to defend first and look to score second. However, they will be expected to have a good performance against Australia.
PLAYERS TO WATCH: Mark Milligan, Aaron Mooy, Tim Cahill, Tom Rogic.
NAME TO LEARN: Tom Rogic. After starting his career in Australia, Rogic made the jump to Scottish giants Celtic back in 2013. He has been a regular in Glasgow under new manager Brendan Rodgers, and helped Celtic to the domestic treble this past season. At 24, Rogic still has a long future ahead, as he looks to translate his stats from Celtic to the SoccerRoos.
Goalkeepers: Mathew Ryan (Genk), Mitchell Langerak (Stuttgart), Daniel Vukovic (Sydney FC)
Defenders: Milos Degenek (Yokohama F Marinos), Alex Gersbach (Rosenborg), Dylan McGowan (Pacos de Ferreira), Bailey Wright (Bristol City), Aziz Behich (Bursaspor), Ryan McGowan (Guizhou Hengfeng Zhicheng), Trent Sainsbury (Inter Milan)
Midfielders: Mark Milligan (Baniyas), Aaron Mooy (Huddersfield), Ajdin Hrustic (Groningen), Massimo Luongo (QPR), Jackson Irvine (Burton Albion), James Jeggo (Sturm Graz)
Forwards: Tim Cahill (Melbourne City), Mathew Leckie (FC Ingolstadt), Tomi Juric (Luzern), Robbie Kruse (Liaoning Whowin), Jamie McLaren (Brisbane Roar), James Troisi (Melbourne Victory), Tom Rogic (Celtic)
OUTLOOK: Australia is making its first appearance in this competition since 2005, and would like to surprise some people. They have an experienced veteran in Tim Cahill up front, who can still bag some goals when needed. Paired with some youth, Australia could provide a tough opponent for the two heavyweights in Group B.
What do you make of this year’s Confederations Cup? Will hosts Russia make a deep run into the tournament, or will they crash out of Group A? Will a debutante lift the trophy, like Chile or Portugal? Can any of the underdogs make a run at things?
Share your thoughts below.