Are the Confederations Cup and Champions Trophy really a waste of time?

Andre Leslie Roar Rookie

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    While football’s Confederations Cup and cricket’s Champions Trophy keep on copping criticism each time they come around, they do fulfil an important role.

    Even before Australia made a disappointing exit from this month’s midnight cricket tournament in England – beaten by the rain and some quirky selections – part-time fans of the baggy green were struggling to get fired up about the Champions Trophy.

    What’s that again, they asked, standing round the water cooler at the office? Is that the same as the Champions League? Oh God: cue eye roll from us cricket nerds!

    On the pitch, Aussie selection seemed more about experimentation than winning, with Moises Henriques copping the lion’s share of the criticism. Meanwhile, the timing of the tour couldn’t have been worse as Australia’s cricketers grapple with a pay dispute.

    Then there was India, who reportedly threatened to pull out of the tournament in April over a disagreement about revenue streams with the International Cricket Council (ICC). They probably wouldn’t have ever skived off, but the idea did get floated according to a report by the Times of India.

    And were England really up for it? I mean, letting the tournament run at the start of June, rather than in July, would never happen to an Ashes series. The English, after starting brightly, then got waterlogged when the going got tough.

    But compare those experiences with the tournament enjoyed by Bangladesh. The country, perennial under-performers at international cricket tournaments, won their way through to a crunch semi-final with India. They scored over 260 in that game, in their first appearance in a semi-final in any ICC-run tournament.

    Tamim Iqbal showed us again that he is absolutely world class with consistent runs throughout, while Shakib al Hasan scored a century under pressure against New Zealand when it counted.

    This, from a country which is still being affected by security issues, and which desperately wants to compete with cricket’s big sides. These performances over the last few weeks in England, and the accompanying warm-up games, will help the team immeasurably in the future.

    Fast forward a few weeks (for the younger readers, that’s what we used to do when we recorded late night sport on video cassettes) and sports fans are once again feeling a bit unsure about an international tournament with a star-studded line-up. This time, it’s football’s Confederations Cup.

    aaron-mooy-australia-socceroos-football-2016

    (AAP Image/Dan Himbrechts)

    The tournament, which started as the King Fahd Cup in Saudi Arabia in 1992, has now blossomed into a FIFA-run affair, complete with bells and whistles, although there are rumours doing the rounds that this could be the last running of the tournament.

    Just like cricket’s Champions Trophy, the Confed Cup involves eight nations, including the holders of each of the six regional championships (UEFA, CONMEBOL, CONCACAF, CAF, AFC, OFC), plus the last World Cup winner and the hosts of the upcoming World Cup, namely Russia.

    Sales are reportedly down among the Russian fans, as they try to work out how much they really want to part with their hard-earned rubles, just to watch their relatively uninspiring national side.

    Germany, on the other hand, have been a bit high and mighty about it all. The country’s media keeps crowing that the tournament should be done away with, while the team’s management have said that they will be using the tournament to help select their accommodation for next year’s actual World Cup. Lofty sporting goals indeed.

    But then compare that to Australia. There’s no doubt that this tournament is absolutely crucial to the fate of the Socceroos and coach Ange Postecoglou. With clutch Asian qualifiers to come in the second half of the year, the Aussies couldn’t hope for a better way to prepare for their next tilt at the World Cup.

    The same can be said for the All Whites, of course, who also have a tricky road ahead, if they want to get to Russia next year. Should they win Oceania qualifying, as expected, they will need to be match-ready when they take on South America’s fifth-best team in November. At the moment, that team is Argentina. Not a bad bunch of footballers, I hear.

    It seems that when it comes to the Champions Trophy and the Confederations Cup, it’s all a question of perspective: the smaller teams gain more from the experience than the bigger sides.

    But the heavyweights can learn plenty from the process too. Tournaments like this can help test new players in tough match situations and allow coaches to work on new tactics, while at the end of it all there’s even a decent pay-check for the winners.

    For some fans, it’s just too much of their favourite sport, and I appreciate that. But no-one’s forcing you to get up in the middle of the night and watch it.

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