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2009 FIFA Confederations Cup Opponent Capsules


SOUTH AFRICA FACT FILE
South Africa Football Association
Founded: 1932 (Joined FIFA in 1992)
Head Coach: Joel Santana (Brazil)
Best World Cup Finish: First Round in 1998, 2002
Best African Nations Cup Finish: Winner, 1996
Confederations Cup History: One Appearance (First Round, 1997)
Qualified for 2009 Confederations Cup: Host
Caps Leader: Aaron Moekena (75)
Top Scorer: Benni McCarthy (30)
Key Players: Aaron Moekena, Benni McCarthy, Steven Peinaar, Teko Modise
U.S. Record vs. South Africa: 2-0-0
Most Recent Game: Nov. 18, 2007, Johannesburg, South Africa; RSA 0, USA 1

South Africa makes its second appearance in the Confederations Cup, qualifying for the 2009 edition of the tournament by virtue of their status as hosts. Since the U.S. faced Bafana Bafana in Johannesburg last year, the 2010 FIFA World Cup hosts have undergone significant changes. Head coach Carlos Alberto Parreira is out, having resigned for personal reasons, and he is succeeded by fellow Brazilian, Joel Santana. On the field, Bafana are still toiling, and they recently missed out on qualification for the 2010 African Cup of Nations. Despite the struggles, the passion of the home fans and the determination and pride of the South African players make this host country a tough draw in any game.

ITALY FACT FILE
Federazione Italiana Giuoco Calcio
Founded: 1898 (Joined FIFA in 1905)
Head Coach: Marcello Lippi
Best World Cup Finish: Winners (1934, 1938, 1982, 2006)
Best European Championship Finish: Winners (1968)
Confederations Cup History: First Appearance in 2009
Qualified for 2009 Confederations Cup: 2006 FIFA World Cup Winners
Caps Leader: Paolo Maldini (126)
Top Scorer: Luigi Riva (35)
Key Players: Gianluigi Buffon, Fabio Cannavaro, Daniele De Rossi, Luca Toni
U.S. Record vs. Italy: 0-3-3
Most Recent Game: June 17, 2006, Kaiserslautern, Germany; ITA 1, USA 1
Highlights: USA draw against Italy in 2006 FIFA World Cup

The reigning FIFA World Cup champions are a force to be reckoned with in any context and in any tournament. Much is always made about the Azzurri being slow starters, but the old cliché “it's not how you start, it's how you finish” certainly holds true for Marcello Lippi's side. Lippi, the manager during the 2006 triumph, is back at the helm following Roberto Donadoni's resignation after Euro 2008 and the former presides over one of the toughest, most experienced sides in world football. The Italians are known for their fierce defense and their ability to compete in any tournament ensure they are among the favorites in nearly every competition they enter.

BRAZIL FACT FILE
Confederação Brasileira de Futebol
Founded: 1914 (Joined FIFA in 1923)
Head Coach: Dunga
Best World Cup Finish: Winners (1958, 1962, 1970, 1994, 2002)
Best Copa America Cup Finish: Winners (1919, 1922, 1949, 1989, 1997, 1999, 2004, 2007)
Confederations Cup History: Five Appearances (Winners 1997, 2005)
Qualified for 2009 Confederations Cup: 2007 Copa America Winners
Caps Leader: Cafu (148)
Top Scorer: Pelé (77)
Key Players: Kaká, Robinho, Lúcio, Ronaldinho
U.S. Record vs. Brazil: 1-12-0
Most Recent Game: September 9, 2007, Chicago, Ill; USA 2, BRA 4
Highlights: USA 1-0 win over Brazil in 1998 Gold Cup – Preki goal and Kasey Keller outstanding performance

When Dunga's Brazil won the 2007 Copa America tournament, many thought they were seeing a new Seleção: pragmatic, defensive and utterly efficient. However, while their commitment to shutting down opponent's attacks is a big part of Dunga's team, it would be foolish to write off Brazil's willingness to play excting attacking soccer. The talent pool in the Brazilian team is nothing short of ridiculous, and players like Kaká, Robinho, Adriano and Diego provide much in the way of going forward. In short, Brazil is always a danger, and major tournaments they are always lurking near the knockout rounds.

IRAQ FACT FILE
Iraq Football Association
Founded: 1948 (Joined FIFA in 1950)
Head Coach: Jorvan Vieira (Brazil)
Best World Cup Finish: First Round (1986)
Best AFC Asian Cup Finish: Winners (2007)
Confederations Cup History: First appearance in 2009
Qualified for 2009 Confederations Cup: 2007 AFC Asian Cup Winners
Caps Leader: Hussein Saeed (126)
Top Scorer: Hussein Saeed (63)
Key Players: Younis Mahmoud, Emad Mohammed, Nashat Akram, Hawar Mulla Mohammed
U.S. Record vs. Iraq: No previous games

Iraqi soccer shot to prominence in 2007, when Brazilian Jorvan Vieira lead the team an improbable success in the Asian Cup. Iraq overcame long odds, beating Australia, Korea Republic and Saudi Arabia en route to lifting their first ever title in the continental championship. Since that victory, the goings have been a bit tougher, and Iraq is already eliminated from the 2010 FIFA World Cup. Missing out on that tournament, however, ensures that the Iraqi team will be treating this competition with the utmost importance and the team and country will surely relish the chance to put Iraqi soccer on the world stage.

EGYPT FACT FILE
Egypt Football Association
Founded: 1921 (Joined FIFA in 1923)
Head Coach: Hassan Shehata
Best World Cup Finish: First Round (1934, 1990)
Best Africans Cup of Nations Finish: Winners (1957, 1959, 1986, 1998, 2006, 2008)
Confederations Cup History: One Appearance (First Round, 1999)
Qualified for 2009 Confederations Cup: 2008 African Cup of Nations Winners
Caps Leader: Hossam Hassan (169)
Top Scorer: Hossam Hassan (69)
Key Players: Ahmed Hassan, Amr Zaki, Essam El-Hadary, Mohamed Abo Treika
U.S. Record vs. Egypt: 0-1-0
Most Recent Game: June 8, 1987, Seoul, Korea Republic; USA 1, EGY 3

Because Egypt hasn't qualified for a World Cup in 20 years, it is rare to hear about The Pharohs playing the role of a continental powerhouse. Indeed, countries like Cameroon, Côte d'Ivoire and Nigeria often earn the plaudits from abroad, but it is Egypt who recently defended their African Nations Cup title in 2008. That victory qualified Hassan Shehata's team for the 2009 Confederations Cup, where they'll match wits with the best teams in the world as they look to make sure Egypt's national team does not remain unheard of for much longer.

SPAIN FACT FILE
Real Federación Española de Fútbol
Founded: 1909 (Joined FIFA in 1913)
Head Coach: Vicente Del Bosque
Best World Cup Finish: Fourth Place (1950)
Best European Championship Finish: Winners (1964, 2008)
Confederations Cup History: First Appearance in 2009
Qualified for 2009 Confederations Cup: 2008 European Championship Winners
Caps Leader: Andoni Zubizarreta (126)
Top Scorer: Raúl González (44)
Key Players: Iker Casillas, Xavi Hernández, Cesc Fàbregas, Fernando Torres
U.S. Record vs. Spain: 0-3-0
Most Recent Game: June 4, 2008, Santander, Spain; ESP 1, USA 0
Highlights: Played Spain in final tuneup before Spain won 2008 European Championship

Spain emerged in 2008 from years of disappointing tournaments by outclassing the competition in the European Championship. Slick passing and belief in the Luis Aragones' system pushed the Spanish team over the hump and onto the podium in Austria this past summer. Players like Fernando Torres, David Villa and Cesc Fabregas can dazzle the fans, but top to bottom, Spain is one of the toughest and most efficient sides in the world. It is no mistake that they are ranked number one in FIFA's World Ranking, and their 100 percent start to 2010 qualifying proves that the team hasn't skipped a beat since Vicente Del Bosque's hiring as manager.

NEW ZEALAND FACT FILE
New Zealand Football
Founded: 1891 (Joined FIFA in 1948)
Head Coach: Ricki Herbert
Best World Cup Finish: First Round (1982)
Best OFC Nations Cup Finish: Winners (1973, 1998, 2002, 2008)
Confederations Cup History: Two Appearances (1999, 2003)
Qualified for 2009 Confederations Cup: 2009 OFC Nations Cup Winners
Caps Leader: Vaughan Conveny (64)
Top Scorer: Vaughan Conveny (28)
Key Players: Ryan Nelsen, Simon Elliott, Chris Killen, Shane Smeltz
U.S. Record vs. New Zeland: 2-0-0
Most Recent Game: June 8, 2003, Richmond, Va.; USA 2, NZL 1
Highlights: Goals from Jovan Kirovski and Chris Klein give U.S. the win in previous match.

Since Australia's defection to the AFC, New Zealand has assumed the role of powerhouse in the Oceania Football Confederation (OFC). The All-Whites waltzed to an easy victory in the OFC Nations Cup, dispatching Fiji, Vanuatu and New Caledonia in the round robin tournament, but they will find the goings much tougher in South Africa when they line up in June of 2009.

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