Is Confederation Cup success a predictor of World Cup success?


Something to keep in mind as you watch the Confederations Cup over the next two weeks:

Watch and enjoy, I say. Heck, outside of Major League Soccer, it’s a dead spot in a soccer caldendar that pretty much cranks out the greatness year-round otherwise.

If you are looking for significance in as a predictor of success – a fair premise, as the Confeds Cup is employed as a “dress rehearsal” for the next year’s World Cup and frequently involves many of the same nations – well, don’t look too hard.

(MORE: Quick guide to each Confeds Cup team’s stars)

If we look at the last three Confeds Cups that were held a year out in the World Cup countries, the winners neither the winners nor the runners-up did much to scream about a year later inside the  same country, inside some of the very same stadiums.

2001 final – France defeats Japan, 2-1:

France was freakin’ awful a year later, ridiculously rudderless without talismanic leader Zinedine Zidane. Japan made it to the second round but lost to Turkey, not an overly impressive showing from one of the hosts.

2005 final – Brazil defeats Argentina, 4-1:

Whenever Brazil does not win the World Cup, it always feels like a national crisis in the country. When Brazil is eliminated in the quarterfinals, the world must be falling apart! So, yeah. Argentina had a strong team but also fell in the quarters, eliminated in penalty kicks after a good match with Germany.

2009 final – Brazil defeats the United States 3-2:

Yes, the United States! Little ol’ us! Remember how swell it was to take a bit out of majestic Spain in the semifinal! Holy Xavi, those were  good times! .. But then, remember how lousy it felt going out to freakin’ Ghana, again, in the Round of 16? All the scourge of “opportunity lost” careening toxically around the interwebs? Yeah, that sucked.

Brazil went out to Netherlands, not looking too wise in that quarterfinal in Port Elizabeth.

(MORE: Confederations Cup preview)

Zlatan confirms Manchester United departure

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Zlatan Ibrahimovic has confirmed myriad reports he’s leaving Manchester United with a perfectly-Zlatan Instagram message.

Ibrahimovic is expected to join the LA Galaxy next week.

[ MORE: MLS All Stars vs. Juventus ]

The words aren’t too important, but Ibrahimovic posted an old graphic of him in Greek god garb, arm-wrestling a devil. So he’s got that going for him, which is nice.

The living Swedish legend, 36, has been limited to seven appearances, one start, and one goal in returning from a season-ending knee injury, but finishes his Manchester United tenure with an impressive 29 goals and 10 assists in 53 games (deduct the seven and one for peak impressiveness).

Bale breaks Wales scoring record

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Gareth Bale has now unquestionably written his name into Wales history.

The 28-year-old Real Madrid scored a hat-trick for Wales in its 6-0 demolition of China, taking his overall tally to 29 goals, breaking Ian Rush’s record.

“It is right up there, maybe as the best,” Bale told reporters after the game. “I suppose when I was a little boy I never dreamed of being a record-breaker for Wales. It is a massive honor. I was not thinking about it, but now it has come it’s an incredible honor and one of the best things I’ve achieved in my career. On a personal note it’s great to break the record, but I could not have done it without my team-mates.”

Bale was unable to carry Wales to the 2018 World Cup, but he first became a National Team legend by helping take Wales to the Euro 2016 semifinals, scoring three goals along the way.

Here’s a look at Bale’s record-breaking goal.

Sporting KC giving away creative “Bike Opara” bobblehead

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In his ninth Major League Soccer season, Ike Opara has scored just a dozen regular season goals.

He’s known more for his physicality in the backline, for creating space for teammates on set pieces, or heading balls on to teammates with slightly more fleeter feet.

But in June 2017, it all came together for Opara in a magical moment, where he beat an offside trap from the LA Galaxy and scored an insane bicycle kick for Sporting Kansas City.

Now, to honor Opara’s ridiculous goal, Sporting KC has announced the first 10,000 fans through the gates at Children’s Mercy Park on March 31 will get a “Bike Ike” bobblehead, with him in flight kicking the ball towards goal over his shoulder.

You’ve gotta love the creativity and fun the Sporting KC marketing department is having. Hopefully, Opara can give the team another memorable goal in 2018.

Van Dijk named new Netherlands captain

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Virgil Van Dijk has had a pretty decent last three months since moving to Liverpool, and the towering defender earned a new personal achievement on Thursday.

Van Dijk was named the newest captain of the Netherlands National Team, where he’ll play under former manager Ronald Koeman. Van Dijk’s first game as captain will be against the nation where he currently plies his trade, England, on Friday.

“I am very happy with it, it is a great honor to be the captain of your country,” van Dijk said at a pre-match press conference Thursday. “Everyone knows that Koeman gave me the chance at Southampton, I am very grateful to him. This is very special.”

Van Dijk’s commanding presence in the Liverpool backline and previous stops at Southampton and Celtic make him an obvious choice for captain, taking the place of the now-retired Arjen Robben. At just 26-years old, van Dijk could carry the armband for a half dozen years if he keeps up his strong form.