COMMENTARY | Ahead of this week's Confederations Cup semifinals, the tournament that serves as a warm up for the World Cup has already served its primary purpose for the participants. All eight contestants have acclimated to the social and physical temperatures they will need to endure during next summer's competition--should they all qualify, of course.
Below are the Top 4 expectations the 2013 Confederations Cup has already set for the 2014 World Cup.
1. Passionate Crowds
Saying Brazilian people enjoy the sport with tremendous fervor is a massive injustice to the passion and joy displayed at every match during this summer's tournament. Even Tahiti was applauded and celebrated by the locals, but the true atmosphere of the tournament overwhelmed and awed when Brazil took the field.
The Confederations Cup finally provided the native fans a national team worth screaming about and a player worth dancing for. Any team that faces the Selecao in one year's time will face a tough task against Neymar and company. No one wants to face Brazil in a final at Rio de Janeiro's famous Maracana Stadium in 2014 because the crowd would be unbearable for Brazil's opposition.
On a related note, Japan's matches featured supportive crowds. With Brazil being home to the largest Japanese population outside of Japan, the Asian champions should carry that crowd advantage into next year's World Cup.
2. Problems Off the Pitch
Beautiful as the people and cities of Brazil may be, the country is far from perfect. For the duration of the Confederations Cup, the people of Brazil have protested against rampant government corruption. Also, Brazilians voiced dissatisfaction with the government's lack of investment into social programs for its citizens. Through all the signs, chants, and tear gas, the football on the field has continued on.
Next year, Brazil will provide plenty of distractions away from the stadiums, but the matches will be played, and the product will deliver. At the Confederations Cup, the overall play on the pitch and support in the stands has been spectacular. The matches have all been exciting thus far, save for a couple of periods of Spanish domination--I couldn't bear to watch the last two goals against Tahiti. Were 10 goal really necessary? Really? 10-0?
To prove the universe tends to balance out, the Spanish national team was victim to an old-fashioned burglary involving women, strip poker, caipirinhas, and well, money. Conceivably, there will be more partying and robberies next summer. Ultimately, the World Cup will not stop or slow down for any of these types of distractions.
3. Injuries are Unpredictable and Inevitable
Injuries are not usually talking points when salivating over match ups, countries, and teams. However, a bombshell of an injury to Mario Balotelli stunted the excitement over Thursday's Spain and Italy semifinal. Balotelli's injury and sudden departure served as a staggering reminder that even the biggest stars are human.
Considering Andrea Pirlo, Riccardo Montolivo, Cesc Fabregas, Roberto Soldado, David Luiz, and Paulinho are among the injury doubts for the semifinals, the Confederations Cup provided a harsh reminder that even the tastiest fixtures cannot escape the injury bug.
4. Europe and South America Still Reign Supreme
All four teams in the semifinals of the Confederations Cup are from Europe or South America.
Neither Tahiti nor Japan was able to earn a single point. Asia and Oceania combined for six losses in six matches. Africa's representative, Nigeria, did not fare much better apart from a 6-1 victory over Tahiti. Overall, Africa, Asia, Oceania, and North America combined for two wins and 10 losses before exiting the competition. These players have likely moved on to playing strip poker and sipping caiperinhas at this point.
The Confederations Cup reiterated that the winner of the 2014 World Cup will come from either Europe or South America. After all, every World Cup winner to this point has come from either Europe or South America, and this summer did not offer much of an argument to the contrary.
Shahan Ahmed is a Yahoo! Contributor in Sports. He is Director of European Football and Chief Editor for AccuScore, and he is providing Yahoo! regular 2013 Confederations Cup coverage for the duration of the tournament. You can interact with Shahan on Twitter @ShahanLA
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