THE 2013 Confederations Cup kicks off on samba Saturday in Brazil.
A curtain-raiser to the following summer’s World Cup, the tournament has become an opportunity for the organisers to tune up stadiums and for the players to get used to the conditions.
Brazil won the last Confederations Cup in South Africa in 2009 but Luiz Felipe Scolari’s team are struggling with yo-yoing form ahead of their own World Cup.
Before it all kicks off in Brasilia on Saturday night, SunSport have put together a tidy guide for you to keep up with the action.
Who is playing?
Brazil — They qualified as hosts and they were the Confederations Cup winners in 2009 and 2005. Scolari’s squad have struggled for form over the last few years, but they recently swept France aside 3-0 in Porto Alegre, days after England secured a 2-2 draw.
Mexico — The football-loving nation qualified by winning the Concacaf Gold Cup in 2011.
Italy — Qualified by being Euro 2012 finalists — as Spain won last year's tournament and were already world champions — Italy are invited.
Japan — Alberto Zaccheroni’s side are not the most high-profile squad in the tournament. But the 2011 AFC Asian Cup winners have a 23 wins, nine draws and five defeats during the Italian’s three year tenure.
Spain — Are undoubtedly the team to beat in Brazil. World champions and reigning European champions twice over. Barcelona’s form this season suggests that the core of the team are past their best, but they will still keep the ball so much better than anyone else.
Uruguay — The 2011 Copa America winners were one of the form sides at the World Cup and they will keep their electric front three of Luis Suarez, Diego Forlan and Edinson Cavani together.
Tahiti — So little is known of the 2012 OFC Nations Cup winners, but they had two friendlies against New Zealand in October, losing 2-0 and 3-0. Tahiti’s squad is composed mainly of amateurs and the tiny nation — population 178,000 — is keen on hosting the Beach Soccer World Cup.
Nigeria — West African powerhouse Nigeria surprised even themselves by winning this year’s African Cup of Nations in South Africa, maybe they will surprise a few favourites at the Confederations Cup.
Who should we look out for?
Edinson Cavani — Uruguay
WHAT do you get when you combine the eye for goal of Alan Shearer with the swagger of Hernan Crespo? A goal-hunting machine, is what. No wonder Manchester City, Chelsea and Real Madrid are so keen to sign the 26-year-old.
Shinji Kagawa — Japan
THE Japanese apologised to Manchester United fans for below-par performances this season, but other than an anonymous showing in the Bernebau, he played no small part in United’s sweeping of the Premier League last season, scoring six goals.
The 24-year-old is unquestionably Japan’s biggest star.
Neymar — Brazil
NEW Barcelona signing Neymar originally promised to stay at Santos until after the World Cup, but Barcelona just could not resist letting his stock go through the ceiling.
He still has a lot to prove at international level but this could be the perfect stage for the quick, skilful 21-year-old.
Juan Mata — Spain
IT is so hard to pick from a Spain that do not rely on individuals, but two-time Chelsea player of the season has been so consistently excellent in the Premier League, there is no doubt he can step it up on the world stage.
Mario Balotelli — Italy
WE miss Balo in the Premier League. But he is still a huge enigma on the international stage, combining sublime moments with others where he could be invisible.
His red card in a World Cup qualifier against Czech Republic — for two yellows in as many minutes — means he puzzles even the Italians.
WE have already heard rumblings about Brazil's approach to the World Cup stadia being slow.
Remember, Brazil did not face any competition in being awarded the 2014 World Cup, so complacency has crept in, whilst the 2016 Olympic organisers are being praised for their haste.
The stadiums are typically South American in style and whilst they are not quite as stylish as South Africa or Germany, there is no question they will be filled by thousands of fans watching the local club teams long after the tournament finishes.
Brasilia — Estadio Nacional
Belo Horizonte — Estadio Mineirao
Fortaleza — Estadio Castelao
Recife — Estadio Pernambuco
Salvador — Arena Fonte Nova
Rio de Janeiro — Maracana
Brazil v Japan — Sat June 15, 8pm
Mexico v Italy — Sun June 16, 8pm
Brazil v Mexico — Weds June 19, 8pm
Italy v Japan — Weds June 19, 11pm
Italy v Brazil — Sat June 22, 8pm
Japan v Mexico — Sat June 22, 8pm
Spain v Uruguay — Sun June 16, 11pm
Tahiti v Nigeria — Mon June 17, 8pm
Spain v Tahiti — Thurs June 20, 8pm
Nigeria v Uruguay — Thurs June 20, 11pm
Nigeria v Spain — Sun June 23, 8pm
Uruguay v Tahiti — Sun June 23, 8pm
Group A winner v Group B runner-up — Weds June 26, 8pm
Group B winner v Group A runner-up — Thurs June 27, 8pm
Sun June 30, 5pm
Sun June 30, 11pm