Confederations Cup 2013: Samba Partners (plus more CCL qualifying)

Posted on December 1, 2012 12:07 pm

Let’s say you find yourself on CONCACAF’s negotiating team for the 2016 Copa América. You know that CONMEBOL primarily have financial gain in mind with their scheme to host this centennial edition in the US, and that they need your cooperation to make it happen. To be fair, they will have more teams in the tournament; and the inclusion of Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay and Colombia will bestow upon proceedings the kind of prestige that the Gold Cup could only wish to attain.

What percentage of the earnings would you consider fair for CONCACAF?

Ok, now raise your hands if you honestly thought that Justino Compean and co. would be ambitious enough to demand a straight 50-50 split. According to the Mexican Football Federation (FMF) President, the CONCACAF officials who passed through Brazil this week in anticipation of today’s 2013 Confederations Cup draw have decided to demand no less than an equal voice in everything, from organization to television rights and revenue. Perhaps this represents the high line from which CONCACAF President Jeffrey Webb and General Secretary Enrique Sanz plan to negotiate down, but this sort of boldness reveals just how much leverage they believe the US golden goose in their backyard gives them.

We will likely have to wait until next year for any concrete news on that front. An hour ago, however, 2011 Gold Cup winners Mexico learned the Confederations Cup group that awaits them…assuming that the draw does not get overturned. FIFA General Secretary Jerome Valcke’s assistant Alex Atala pulled a position ball from Group A after Adriana Lima drew Uruguay, in spite of the obligation to avoid placing teams from the same confederation in the same group (Brazil had been seeded as A1). This unprecedented gaffe led to confusion over whether Tahiti and Uruguay would take up the B3 position, with FIFA arbitrarily deciding to bump the charruas up to B2. Assuming none of the teams in Group A successfully lobby for a redraw, here is the result:

Group A

Brazil
Japan
Mexico
Italy

Group B

Spain
Uruguay
Tahiti
2013 African Cup of Nations Winner

Mexico’s schedule, surprisingly similar to that of the US in 2009, is as follows (all times EST):

Sunday, June 16 vs. Italy, 2:00 p.m.
Wednesday, June 19 vs. Brazil, 2:00 p.m.
Saturday, June 22 vs. Japan, 2:00 p.m.

Given the absence of 2012 OFC Nations Cup winners and simultaneous World Cup table-proppers Tahiti, Mexico will be forced to earn every point they get. Then again, the last time el Tri participated in the Confederations Cup, they defeated both Brazil and Japan en route to topping the group and finishing fourth in Germany. As for the Azzurri, whose underwhelming run in the 2009 edition surprisingly foreshadowed an even more embarrassing performance in the following World Cup, the 1-1 draw with Mexico in 2002 featuring a stunning header from Jared Borgetti still remains a fond memory for the aztecas. None of these teams will overwhelm Mexico; should they reach the semifinals, though, fatigue may set in as Jose Manuel “el Chepo” de la Torre would prepare for the seventh and eighth games in the same month. At least, if they manage to win the group, they will get to stay in Belo Horizonte instead of heading back to Fortaleza.

Back in our corner of the world, this weekend will feature two finals with top seeding in the 2013-14 CONCACAF Champions League at stake, and a third that will produce our first Central American qualifier for the next continental championship. We will start in Los Angeles where, as you may have heard, a certain Englishman will wrap up his Stateside adventure.

Today at 4:30 p.m., the Home Depot Center will play host to the MLS Cup Final rematch between the LA Galaxy and a much-improved Houston Dynamo (here is the TV schedule for the US and Canada). The former, featuring the clutch Mike Magee alongside star players Landon Donovan, Robbie Keane and the departing David Beckham, will attempt to win their fourth major trophy in three years, in their third Final appearance in four years. The visitors, meanwhile, will count on a healthy Brad Davis, Ricardo Clark and midseason signing Oscar Boniek Garcia to disrupt the Galaxy’s midfield play and feed Will Bruin and Brian Ching up top to knock off the last higher seed standing between Houston and their third league title.

While the MLS dénouement deliberately hoards the Saturday afternoon slot to itself, Sunday promises an overlap of playoff action in our region. First, at 3:00 p.m. in La Ceiba, Honduras, Victoria will look to avoid defeat in the second leg of their semifinal against Motagua, as the 1-1 draw earned down in Tegucigalpa will allow the hosts to edge the series as the higher seed in case of a second tie. While they continue to chase a maiden appearance on the continental stage, another potential debutant will try to finish the job at the first time of asking: at 4:00 p.m., Chepo will contest the one-off Panamanian Apertura Final with two-time CCL participants Arabe Unido at the Estadio Rommel Fernandez. Both RPCTV and TV Max are likely to carry the match, in which the most successful canalero club in the CCL era will aim to end their three-year absence from the tournament, while Chepo could emulate Houston by winning their domestic league as the lowest seed to enter the playoffs.

Back in Honduras, the second Apertura finalist will be determined at 5:00 p.m., as Atletico Choloma defend their slim 1-0 advantage in the second leg of their semifinal with Olimpia. For El Leon, only a victory at the Estadio Nacional in Tegucigalpa will do; as the higher seed, though, any victory will keep them on course for a third-straight league championship. In contrast, fellow Central American grandes Saprissa will take the next step towards ending a two-year domestic drought as they travel to Heredia for the first leg of their semifinal with the defending champions, to be broadcast on Canal 6 at 6:00 p.m.

The second leg of the Liga MX Final distinguishes itself as the only match free of traditional powers, although Toluca fans will challenge that assertion. At 7:00 p.m., the Diablos Rojos will join Chivas as the most decorated club in Mexico (not counting continental trophies) with a victory by two or more goals against the Xolos in the Estadio Nemesio Diez, after having dropped the first leg in Tijuana 2-1. A one-goal win will open the door for overtime and penalties, while anything less will cap the inaugural Liga MX Apertura with the first-ever league winner from a border town.

Lastly, the Salvadoran postseason will begin at 8:00 p.m., as the first legs of both Apertura semifinals kick off simultaneously. FAS and defending champions Aguila will similarly look to make up for their disastrous Champions League campaigns as they host Alianza and Isidro Metapan, respectively. Considering that any wild-card berth forfeited by Belize will go to either Costa Rica or Guatemala, the aforementioned four clubs will hunt down the league title as the only surefire means of guaranteeing continental play in 2013.

CCL 2013-14 Qualifiers

1. Sporting Kansas City [USA4]
2. San Jose Earthquakes [USA2]
3. Houston Dynamo [USA3]
4. LA Galaxy [USA1]
5. Toluca FC [MEX2 or MEX3]
6. Club Tijuana [MEX1]
7. Árabe Unido [PAN1 or PAN2]

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