The Confederations Cup started life in 1992 as the King Fahd Cup. Organised by Saudi Arabia (hence the name) with the idea of getting the continental champions to play a mini tournament against each other. Two competitions were played (1992 & 95) before FIFA decided that the idea was a valuable (IE profitable) one and took over the running of it.
Originally played every two years, it was changed in 2005 to every four years and the hosts would be whoever was hosting the World Cup the following year, the idea being that they could use the tournament as a dry run to iron out any organisational issues for the main event of the World Cup.
The 2017 Russia Confederations Cup will be New Zealand's fourth appearance in the tournament. Their record so far is pretty abysmal -
Played 9, Won 0, Drawn 1, Lost 8, Goals For 2, Goals Against 24
So instead of doing a traditional preview covering the teams we will be playing, I'm going to look back at the 2003 tournament. Why? well for one thing I was there and secondly there are a few similarities I am seeing between then and now
LESS THAN CONVINCING QUALIFICATION
In 2002 New Zealand won the Oceania Nations Cup, beating Australia 1-0, thanks to a Ryan Nelsen goal in the final at Mt Smart Stadium. While not taking anything away from the All Whites win, it was significant that Australia played a home based team and didn't select any of their overseas based players such as Harry Kewell, Brett Emerton or Mark Viduka.
In 2016 we won the Oceania Nations Cup again, this time beating Papua New Guinea 4-2 on penalties after a 0-0 draw, and we only got past New Caledonia in the semi final thanks to a goalkeeping error.
VERY SIMILAR BUILD UP
|The 5 NZ fans at Poland v All Whites, Ostrowiec Swietorkryski, Oct 2002 Kevin Clarke (CMG Sports)|
I have seen there have been some issues with tickets at this years Confederations Cup, again over delivery. Hopefully they'll all be sorted out, it's unlikely any of the NZ games will sell out so any traveling fans should be fine.
THE OPENING GAME - HOPE BECOMES DESPAIR
The game was a major disappointment, Japan weren't that good and looked as if they could be beaten easily, except this is New Zealand we are talking about and they simply didn't turn up and put in a very abject performance as the game finished a comfortable 3-0 win to Japan. There was a lot of anger around from the normally mild mannered Kiwi fans after this game, we had spent a lot of time, effort and money to come and support the team and they were extremely poor. It was very frustrating.
I am hoping this is where the similarities end. This time our first game is against Russia and many are saying that it will be our best chance of getting something. Russia have been struggling recently only winning 2 of their last 11 games, and have the added pressure of being at home, hopefully the 2017 All White's will turn up.
THE SECOND GAME - RESTORATION OF PRIDE
|Raf de Gregorio being interviewed at the NZ after match function The JourneyFan|
New Zealand's next game was against Colombia in Lyon. We headed to TGV train listening to the moans of how much it cost from one of our group who was worried he'd have no beer money left. Meanwhile a couple of the BNU boys that had traveled over to France had managed to wangle an invite from a local lass, who turned out to be the Mayor's daughter, so as well as free accommodation, they were hob-knobing it at a civic reception for the game - rather posh for Brooklyn lads!
In the game itself, we got to see a rare thing, something only those that went to Mexico 99 have seen as well, a New Zealand goal at the Confederations Cup! Raf de Gregorio got it after just 27 minutes and New Zealand were 1-0 up at half time. The team was playing much better than the previous game against Japan. But football is cruel and just as we were starting to believe we could possibly pull off a win, Colombia equalised. It was at this point I thought they should have bought on Shane Smeltz as he was the sort of player that would keep the pressure on the shaky looking Colombia defence. They did bring him on but with only about 10 minutes to go and it was no help as NZ fell to a 3-1 loss.
Towards the end of the game talk went around the Kiwi fans (who were all together as there were no officious stewards in Lyon) and we were told if we headed back to the hotel where the team were staying we would be welcomed at their after match function. We were a bit skeptical but figured the hotel had a bar so we may as well try it and we were surprised it was true. A great gesture by the team and NZF (or Soccer NZ as they were known at the time) to acknowledge the fans that had made the effort to go to France.
Our second game in Russia is in Sochi against Mexico. We have played Mexico five times in the last seven years and lost all five, although the last game was only a 1-2 loss. I think this will be a game in which we score but will ultimately lose, much like 2003.
THE FINAL GAME
It was back to Paris after this for the big one, France. This was the French team that had won the world cup just 5 years before. We expected nothing from this game, after all we had Gerard Davis (Unattached FC), they had Lillan Thuram (Juventus), we had Mark Burton (Football Kingz), they had Marcell Desailly (Chelsea), we had Vaughan Coveny (South Melbourne), they had Thierry Henry (Arsenal), you get the picture. The most optimistic prediction I heard was they would only get 5, most thought we'd be close to double figures if not in them! After 20 minutes we were 2-0 down and it looked as if we were on course for a thrashing, but then the French eased off and NZ held out until the 70th minute and then two goals in added on time made the score 5-0.
In 2017 we get the European champions again, this time its Portugal and again we really expect nothing from this game. We have Tom Doyle (Phoenix), they have Pepe (Real Madrid), we have Monty Patterson (Ipswich Town), they have Joao Mouthino (Monaco), we have Chris Wood (Leeds United), they have Cristiano Ronaldo (Real Madrid), you get the picture! I have a feeling this one could end up 5-0 to Portugal.
The 2003 tournament wasn't the best International one I've been to, in fact in Paris if you didn't stumble into the Irish bar on the left bank that we had made our headquarters, you wouldn't have known there was actually a tournament on. Lyon was much better but still the support from the locals was a bit half-hearted and probably helped in contributing to the decision in changing it to every four years.
After the tournament it emerged that the All White's camp was not a happy one, there were arguments over money, feelings that some of the players shouldn't have been there and disharmony between the coaching staff, which came to light the next year in the disastrous Oceania Nations Cup when we failed to make the final after losing 4-2 to Vanuatu.
I don't think we will have the same problems this time, after the 2003 tournament NZF & the NZPFA worked out a deal so that money wouldn't be an issue in future tournaments. The coaching staff are all aligned as they have been picked by the head coach (not something that had happened in 2003) and you could argue Tommy Smith shouldn't be there, but that's based on his previous attitude to playing for NZ. If you look purely at playing ability he would be one of the first picked
The 2003 tournament will always be remembered for the death of Cameroon's Marc-Viven Foe, who collapsed on the pitch in Lyon and wasn't able to be revived. I returned to France for the final which was between Cameroon and France. It was quite emotional with massive pictures of Foe and members of his family on the pitch before the game. It was clear that neither team really wanted to be playing the game and the crowd agreed, the most energetic they got was in roundly booing Sepp Blatter. Thiery Henry scored the winner in extra time and looked guilty for doing so. When they came to present the cup, both captains went up and lifted the trophy and paid tribute to Marc-Viven Foe.
|The French & Cameroon teams with pic of Marc-Viven Foe after the 2003 Confederation Cup Final|
NEW ZEALAND'S GAMES (all in NZ Time)
Sunday 18 June
Thursday 22 June
Sunday 25 June