If, like us, you’re experiencing severe withdrawal-symptoms in the absence of anything resembling a decent football match and are currently obsessing over the Race for Eighth in the Uzbek Under-23 Division 3B in order to get your fix, then the 2017 Confederations Cup is just what you need.
This time round the FIFA Global Summer Kickback Jamboree – as it may or may not be affectionately known by the blazers in their Zurich cubbyholes – is being held in Russia, the self-affirmed Worldwide Stronghold of Honest Entrepreneurs, Ethical Hacking and Hooligan Horseplay.
The competition is generally considered a cold open for the World Cup, the next edition of which is sure to be a glorious festival of semi-organised street violence and pitched battles between local ultra crews and confused middle-aged English plumbers.
It would perhaps be expecting too much for the Confederations Cup to match that level of atavistic decadence, but as a minor consolation we can look forward to some decent action on the pitch with a number of the world’s top teams set to take part.
At first glance the tournament looks likely to be a straightforward contest between the respective European and World champions in Portugal and Germany.
In truth, things may not be so clear-cut as Germany’s best players simply can’t be bothered to subject themselves to the indignity of having to show up for such a minor affair as this, that’s why they are 13/5. Just six of Jogi Low’s Euro 2016 squad have been selected for the Confederations Cup.
Certainly, the Germans have genuine strength-in-depth, but their interest in the whole thing must be questioned, and for that reason Fernando Santos’ Portuguese side seem to be a more realistic favourite.
Cristiano, fresh from his Champions League exploits and hungry for more silverware, will be there, as will Barcelona’s Andre Gomes and Man City’s recent €50m signing Bernardo Silva. Portugal are coming to win, and could well do so.
A strong Chile side will seek to upset the European heavyweights, and at 23/10 might just be the best-value outright bet. They’re well-coached, vastly experienced and have been arguably the strongest team in South America for the past three or four years, boasting in their ranks Arsenal’s* enfant terrible, Alexis Sanchez – a decent punt for Top Goalscorer at 5/1 – and the gurning mohawk that is Arturo Vidal, as well as an additional cast of scurrying, miniature rondo-pixies.
All of which combines to make them an outfit capable of challenging any team in the world, so it’s not unrealistic to see them topping their group ahead of Germany. They have a genuine chance of going all the way.
Russia – as hosts, – should be motivated to perform on their home turf, but are a relatively modest side: a sensible punter might well see them reaching the semi-final and going no further.
Mexico, the perennial dark horse, could throw up a surprise, but a more likely outside bet would be the African champions Cameroon. They went into AFCON 2017 in supposed disarray and with a second-string side, yet emerged victorious after a succession of solid and resilient defensive displays.
Some would argue that in fact this team is far from the best that Africa has to offer, but 5/2 seems a generous price for a well-organised team such as this to qualify from their group.
New Zealand will also be participating in the tournament, for some reason…
* All odds correct at time of posting.