South American champions, Chile will face World Cup Champions, Germany in this Sunday’s Confederations Cup final at the Krestovsky Stadium in Saint Petersburg.
The Confederations Cup takes place every four years, as a kind of dry-run for the World Cup. The two-week competition pits the current World Cup champions against the host nation — in this case Russia — and the current champions of the various FIFA soccer confederations around the globe.
The Confederations Cup falls in soccer’s “off” year, between European Championships and World Cups. But Sunday’s clash, between a brash, youthful Germany team, and an experienced Chile side, that’s worked itself up from an unspectacular Round of 16 finish at the 2014 World Cup into South America’s resident winning machine, is a worthy final for any tournament.
Sunday’s fixture will mark the third international final in as many summers for Chile, with the South Americans having won consecutive Copa Americas in 2015 and 2016. Germany meanwhile, will be playing in their first senior team final since beating Argentina to triumph in the 2014 World Cup.
Neither team has lifted the Confederations Cup before.
The two sides have already met once before in this tournament, a group stage clash that finished 1-1 on June 22. Arsenal attacker Alexis Sanchez put Chile ahead in that game, becoming La Roja’s leading scorer in the process. Lars Stindl later leveled for Germany, who went on to top Group A, two points above second-place Chile.
Chile’s path to the final saw them face Cristiano Ronaldo’s Portugal in Wednesday’s knockout match. After an intense opening period, the clash between the Copa America holders and European champions settled into a scoreless stalemate. After 90 minutes of regulation time and 30 minutes of overtime, with neither side breaking the deadlock, it was left to penalties to decide.
Goalkeeper Claudio Bravo was the hero for Chile, pulling off a hat-trick of saves to deny penalties from Ricardo Quaresma, Joao Moutinho and Nani. Chile were flawless on the other end, with Arturo Vidal, Charles Aranguiz and Sanchez converting. In fairness, Chile were the stronger side on the day and were unlucky not to have notched the winner in regular time, after substitute Francisco Silva appeared to be brought down in the box.
Germany, who are fielding what’s been variously described as a “B” or even “C” team in the competition, reached the final by basically dismantling what had looked like a promising Mexico side on Thursday. Even without star players like Thomas Muller, Toni Kroos or Mesut Ozil, Joachim Low’s young German side were two goals up inside of 10 minutes, thanks to a pair of strikes from Leon Goretzka.
Timo Werner extended Germany’s lead on the hour mark and it looked to be smooth cruising for the Germans. However, in the final moment of regulation, Marco Fabian pulled one back for Mexico, with a curling wonder strike from distance that beat Marc-Andre ter Stegen and temporarily put the wind back in Mexico’s sails.
But the rally was short-lived, with Amin Younes restoring Germany’s three-goal lead just moments later.
Despite being a second-string team, Germany looks the stronger side heading into Sunday’s final, at least based on what we’ve seen so far.
But this is a Chile side that’s certainly had their moment recently, defeating Lionel Messi’s Argentina in consecutive Copa America finals. This is a team that’s used to playing in finals and knows how to win them.
Over the past three years, under coach Juan Antonio Pizzi and his predecessor Jorge Sampaoi, this Chilean team, with its backbone consisting of the attacking firepower of Sanchez, the midfield steel of Vidal, and the solid net-minding of Bravo, has quietly become the best team in South America.
But while Low’s young squad may not be the same one that triumphed in Brazil three years ago, this is still the top football nation in the world that we’re talking about. For some perspective, Germany’s youth pool is so deep right now that their U21 squad faces Spain in the U-21 Euro final on Friday.
And they’ve hit gear at the right time. After plodding through their opening games, they brushed aside an un-fancied Cameroon side 3-1 with relative ease, before absolutely blowing Mexico off the park Thursday.
Chile by contrast have only won one game in the tournament in open play — a 2-0 triumph over Cameroon in their opening game. Back-to-back 1-1 draws with Germany and Australia, followed by 120 scoreless minutes with Portugal haven’t really given the impression that this is a team to fear.
But fear them Germany should, and Low will instill his brash young side with respect before sending them out for Sunday’s final.
There have been a few good matches in this Confederations Cup, but none that could be described as a classic. This tournament is crying out for one. Based on what we’ve seen from Germany and Chile so far, we could get it on Sunday.
Watch the Confederations Cup Final this Sunday, July 2 at 2:00 p.m. EST on Fox Sports 1 and the Confederations Cup 3rd Place Match on Sunday at 8:00 a.m. EST.