Confederations Cup 2017: Journalists assess their country's performance and Russia's hosting capabilities

With Germany emerging victorious at the conclusion of the Confederations Cup, Firstpost asked a journalist from each participating country to assess their team's performance. Here's what they said:

GROUP A

Dmitriy Zelenov, Russia, Sports Express

Zelenov. Image courtesy: Samindra Kunti

Dmitriy Zelenov. Image courtesy: Samindra Kunti

How do you assess Russia’s Confederations Cup?

The Russian performance was better than at Euro 2016 when the team failed in the group stage, but the result is still far from what Russia, as a nation, wanted. Russia's goal was to get to the semi-finals but we lost two crucial games to Portugal and Mexico and only defeated New Zealand, the underdog in Group A. That’s not something to be proud of. At the same time fans were quite tolerant, perhaps for the first time in many years people really liked the team — its attitude and passion. That’s why they were forgiven for their bad results. This is not the best generation of players. There are no stars, no players from famous European clubs like Andrey Arshavin in the 2000s, Andrei Kanchelskis or Igor Shalimov in the 1990s. The current team is new and very passionate. If they get more experience and a bit of luck, they can get a better result in 2018.

What does Russia need to improve come the World Cup next year?

The head coach Stanislav Cherchesov didn't use some reserve players for different reasons. We have a good fullback from Brazil Mario Fernandez. He’s got a Russian passport and plays for CSKA Moscow. We have Alan Dzagoev, also from CSKA, who was injured. Some players weren’t called up because of a strained relationship with Cherchesov. That has to be fixed.

What stood out in your tournament experience?

I really liked the way Russian people welcomed and accepted foreign fans. Russian, Chilean and Mexican fans partied together. There was no aggression at all, a pleasant atmosphere and the attendances were quite good — better than I had expected. It was a true holiday. Let’s hope it will be the same, or even better, in 2018.

 

Michael Burgess, New Zealand, The New Zealand Herald

Michael Burgess. Image courtesy: Samindra Kunti

Michael Burgess. Image courtesy: Samindra Kunti

How do you assess New Zealand’s Confederations Cup?

Below par. No one seriously expected the All Whites to advance to the semi-finals, but there's a feeling they didn't quite achieve their potential in Russia. New Zealand was well below their best against the hosts, not helped by a strange tactical plan by the coaching staff. They were excellent against Mexico — but ultimately missed a golden chance to get a precious result against a major nation — before a brave first half fight versus Portugal went south in the second half.

What does New Zealand need to improve come the World Cup next year?

The All Whites are outsiders to be at the 2018 World Cup. While they are expected to progress past the Solomon Islands in August to top the Oceania Confederation, their ticket to Russia will hinge on a two-legged play-off against the fifth placed South American team. Whoever that is — from Argentina to Ecuador — it will be a mighty challenge that even major European nations might struggle with. But in terms of improvement, both for November and as a potential 2018 World Cup participant, there are two obvious areas. The first is their ability to keep possession, which was limited at the Confederations Cup, as they spent long periods without the ball. Secondly, the All Whites looked defensively shaky throughout most of the tournament, conceding a lot of shots and opportunities, though the probable return of West Ham's Winston Reid will help in that area.

What stood out in your tournament experience?

Two things stand out. Firstly, the friendly, helpful and hospitable nature of the Russian people, especially the tournament staff and volunteers. It probably wasn't easy dealing with someone who spoke no Russian (yours truly) but the locals were always patient, sincere and did their best to help. Secondly, the inefficiency of the ticketing and fan ID system. It was hard to understand why local Russian fans needed to have a fan id (for foreign visitors it doubled as their visa) and probably contributed to some of the poor crowds, as it was complicated to purchase a ticket on the day before or day of the game. There were also long queues outside stadiums, as it seemed to take an age to process supporters through the gates. One of the saddest sights was the huge lines during the Australia vs Cameroon match in St Petersburg, where thousands of fans missed a considerable chunk of the first half.

 

Antonio Bernardino, Portugal, Record

Antonio Bernardino. Image courtesy: Samindra Kunti

Antonio Bernardino. Image courtesy: Samindra Kunti

How do you assess Portugal’s Confederations Cup?

They enjoyed a good tournament. The main objective was to win the Confederations Cup, that wasn't possible. They finished in third place, without losing a game in regulation time. Overall, it was a wonderful experience for the Portuguese team.

What does Portugal need to improve come the World Cup next year?

This generation of players is still growing and this tournament was an opportunity to get experience and get better for next year. Cristiano Ronaldo and the other old players, who are also the best players, can teach the younger players and help Nelson Semedo, Bernardo Silva and others to develop. That is important for the progress of the team.

What stood out in your tournament experience?

The VAR is a big improvement. It is a new technology and it is evident that it needs some improvement. At the moment VAR has manifold problems. FIFA needs to test it more at other tournaments and other matches to fine-tune it. The atmosphere and infrastructure was extraordinary in Russia. Overall, the organisation was great and 2018 should be a great World Cup.

 

Marco Aurelio, Mexico, Image Media

Marco Aurelio. Image courtesy: Samindra Kunti

Marco Aurelio. Image courtesy: Samindra Kunti

How do you assess Mexico’s Confederations Cup?

It was a decent tournament for Mexico. They reached the third place play-offs. Germany and Chile were simply better teams than Mexico. Germany has been developing their players for years and Chile have won the Copa America twice. Mexico had a good tournament, but not a spectacular one.

What does Mexico need to improve come the World Cup next year?

They should follow Germany’s lead: develop players step by step and don’t change the coach ever so often. It’s always about the short-term in Mexico and that makes it tough to achieve results.

What stood out in your tournament experience?

The major problem is the language. There are no signs in English in Russia and very few people master English. Kazan was different, because it is a city with 18 universities. The students spoke English and sometimes even Spanish. In Moscow, Saint Petersburg and Sochi it was hard to communicate with anyone. It is hard to take a bus or a cab. Russian food is great and delicious, but you can’t even read the menu! You have to look at the dishes on the table next to you to order something. That is the only way!

 

GROUP B

Kieran Pender. Image courtesy: Samindra Kunti

Kieran Pender. Image courtesy: Samindra Kunti

Kieran Pender, Australia, The Guardian Australia

How do you assess Australia’s Confederations Cup?

It is difficult to judge Australia’s performance in Russia. We got a good draw against Chile and should have perhaps won against one of the best teams in the world. That’s a very encouraging result, but Australia looked fairly weak against Germany and only managed a draw against Cameroon. Ultimately, the performance will be judged with the benefit of hindsight. Australia play two crunch World Cup qualifiers in August and September. If they win those and qualify for the World Cup and come back to Russia, with the benefit of this experience, we will look back at this tournament with rose-tinted glasses and we will say that this was really a good warm-up campaign. If we lose the next two World Cup qualifiers this tournament will be seen as a failure. We came here — up against tough sides, but we didn’t do anything.

What does Australia need to improve come the World Cup next year?

Australia still lack a quality replacement for Tim Cahill. He is coming to the end of his career, although he is still a valiant servant for the team. Cahill hasn’t been at his best for several years, and that’s not unreasonable, but Tomi Juric is not the answer. He is a decent player and can play as a good target man, but he hasn't been clinical or consistent. Juric and Jamie Maclaren, who came on late against Chile, had some great opportunities that could have won the game. They didn’t convert, but in those instances you need a player who can score. Since Mark Viduka retired, Australia hasn't had a quality striker to match the best. Defensively Australia are still unsure. Ange Postecoglou has installed a new system of three at the back and wing-backs, but the defenders haven’t fully adjusted. Australia got found out by Germany on the wings and that’s how they scored. If Australia does qualify for the World Cup, we need to work on our goal threat and solidify the back.

What stood out in your tournament experience?

I had a great time in Russia. It’s been heartening to see a lot of Australian fans and journalists love the country. There are a lot of misconceptions about Russia, but it’s a beautiful place when you get to know it. It is morally conflicting, because there a lot of bad things about Russia: endemic corruption problems, human rights issues, and a cloud of how Russia won the bidding process for the World Cup. There are allegations that North Korean labour workers were used to build the stadium in Saint Petersburg. Journalists and fans will have to grapple with these moral issues if they come to Russia, and Qatar in 2022: is it right to go to a tournament in those kind of circumstances? That is the big caveat, but — and it is a big but — when you put that aside, it’s been a fantastic tournament: the organisation has been amazing, the local volunteers were helpful and the football was incredible.

 

Alvaro Poblete, Chile, La Terceira

Image courtesy: Samindra Kunti

Alvaro Poblete. Image courtesy: Samindra Kunti

How do you assess Chile’s Confederations Cup?

Chile had a great tournament where important players excelled. They confirmed that Chile plays at the highest level. Coach Juan Antonio Pizzi ensured that this team remained hungry after the two wins in the Copa America. That was very important going into this Confederations Cup.

What does Chile need to improve come the World Cup next year?

Chile’s problem is the talent pool. The squad is not that deep. We have got about 13-14 players who play at the highest level, but to win a major international tournament you need more players at the elite level. We need more players with the level of Arturo Vidal and Alexis Sanchez. Next year will be the last chance for this generation to win the World Cup.

What stood out in your tournament experience?

The organisation has been very good. Russia has many cultures and everything has worked well. The security is quite tight. The stadiums are beautiful. I suppose next year’s World Cup will be good. This was a perfect warm-up.

 

Peter Ahrens, Germany, Der Spiegel

Peter Ahrens. Image courtesy: Samindra Kunti

Peter Ahrens. Image courtesy: Samindra Kunti

How do you assess Germany’s Confederations Cup?

Germany are very satisfied with this tournament. They won without any stars from the World Cup — the Mesut Ozils and Manuel Neuers were all on holiday. This was a young team. In Europe no one knows Lars Stindl or Niklas Sule. It’s a compliment to Joachim Loew. This is his eleventh year with Germany and today he can be a coach again, working with young players. The Confederations Cup was a great success. At the start, the media and press coverage was very negative, because of the combination of Russia and FIFA. They are not precisely ‘darlings’ in Germany. But Germans watched the matches and with these new rising stars it has been fun.

What does Germany need to improve come the World Cup next year?

Germany wants to defend its title, but all the success makes it a little bit more difficult. Which players will Low select for the World Cup? You have the established stars that you can’t go around, but, at the same time, these youngsters also want to go the World Cup. They have shown ‘it’ at the Confederations Cup. Loew will have to carefully select his squad. If he makes mistakes, that could proof to be decisive at the World Cup.

What stood out in your tournament experience?

It was a good test for the World Cup. The signs in the streets should be improved for international visitors. It’s all in Russian. The taxi drivers don’t speak English and few people have a good orientation in the cities. My lesson: I need to study Russian for next year!

 

David Nzima, Cameroon, Le Jour

David Nzima. Image courtesy: Samindra Kunti

David Nzima. Image courtesy: Samindra Kunti

How do you assess Cameroon’s Confederations Cup?

Cameroon represented Africa well. They respected Chile a bit too much in their opening game. That said, Cameroon had a clear goal ruled out. Chile scored a goal from an offside position and the VAR didn’t correct that. A draw would have been good, but Cameroon were unlucky. Vincent Aboubakar was out of shape against Australia, otherwise Cameroon would have won that game by two or three goals. The referee in the Germany game was poor, but we pushed Germany all the way, even when we were a man down. Cameroon don’t score a lot of goals and that is a working point. We try to score a goal and shut shop, but that doesn’t work at the major tournaments.

What does Cameroon need to improve come the World Cup next year?

Again, we need to score more goals. We need that spirit of a champions, imposing ourselves. The double header with Nigeria will be crucial in the World Cup qualification. We need to show that we fight for every ball and that we are not a small team. That’s what we will hopefully do at the World Cup next year.

What stood out in your tournament experience?

The free transport for fans should have been extended to visiting journalists from day one. The organisation realised that, but only after a while. At the World Cup journalists should be fed and shuttled around. The volunteers don’t speak English, Spanish or French. They only speak Russian. That should all be improved. That said, the stadiums and the fans have been great, with the Russian fans supporting the underdog, even after Russia had been eliminated. The whole stadium was chanting ‘Cameroon, Cameroon.’


Published Date: Jul 04, 2017 05:04 pm | Updated Date: Jul 04, 2017 05:04 pm