Tuesday, March 3, 2020

FIFA Confederations Cup-Part Six (1999 FIFA Confederations Cup)

The 1999th Edition of the Confederations Cup was the second under the heading of FIFA. It would be also be the first not to be hosted by Saudi Arabia, with Mexico being named as hosts.
The major hurdle with this edition would be the scheduling that would ultimately affect the quality of teams for this edition.

(1999 Confedrations Cup logo)

Just like the previous editions, initially FIFA were hoping to organize the event in midseason (January 8th-January 20th) but this did not suit many Nations especially France, the recent 1998 World Cup winners.
The President of the French League (LNF) Noel Le Graet opposed that players missing French League Cup matches (on January 9-10), as well as League matches (January 16th).
The voices of discontent did not only come from France, the Italian, English and Spanish Leagues (that contained many of the French players, as well as some of the other participating Nations) were also opposed to the dates. The English Premier League boss Peter Leaver confirmed that they would not cede to Pressure from FIFA to release players.
At one point, France discussed the possibility of sending a weaker team that would include many U-21 level players.
The possibility of France’s withdrawal forced FIFA President Sepp Blatter to ask UEFA for a substitute representative. Croatia and Germany declared themselves as candidates.
At this point, the dates were also changed to the summertime (July 28th to August 8th).
French Federation President Claude Simonet stated that he could not refuse the offer a second time but proposed the dates to be moved up June instead of July as the late July-early August dates would disrupt the clubs’ pre-season preparations.
Blatter would not budge on the dates but in December asked for a slight modification (from July 24th to August 4th).
On December 18th, 1998, the French Federation went back on their promise and withdrew. On December 22nd, Germany were named as replacements.
The matches would take place just days after the 1999 Copa America that included participants Brazil, Bolivia and Mexico.
This would further complicate participation of top players from these Nations.
The Mexican hosts were without Pablo Cesar Chavez and Rodrigo Lara, both suspended after failing Drugs test in the Copa America.
The Mexico players were furious at the suspension of the duo and their Federation’s perceived passivity on the matter. Incidentally, Sepp Blatter had stated that FIFA did not recognize the suspension of Chavez and Lara.
Brazil would give much needed rest to most of its major stars. Cafu, Antonio Carlos Zago, Roberto Carlos, Rivaldo, Amoroso and most importantly Ronaldo would miss out.
Brazil Manager Vanderlei Luxemburgo would nonetheless retain goalkeepers Dida and Marcos and outfield players: Joao Carlos, Emerson, Ze Roberto, Flavio Conceição, Marcos, Odvan, Vampeta, Alex, Evanilson, Cesar Belli, Serginho, Beto, Christian, Marcos Paulo and a teenager named Ronaldinho from the recent Copa America squad.
Germany’s squad was even more threadbare. Their entire participation had been unpopular and had been at the behest of their Federation with the sole goal of earning goodwill to get the hosting rights for the 2006 World Cup.
The German Manager Erich Ribbeck was openly disgruntled with the decision. He stated, “I don’t know why we’re going there. The German players are just starting pre-season training at their clubs while Brazil have just finished Copa America. We risk taking a beating like we did against USA (0-3) in February. But it appears that for political reasons we have to travel”.
The German Federation instructed Ribbeck to select a maximum of three players from each club to help out the clubs during their pre-season preparations. This ruling also included foreign players as a result Brazil were able to select Bayer Leverkusen’s Emerson and Ze Roberto as well as their American player Frankie Hejduk. This drew the ire of Leverkusen Manager Christoph Daum. He stated that the Brazilian Federation had given their word that the Brazilian duo would only participate in the Copa America.
Germany Captain Oliver Bierhoff also withdrew preferring to stay for his club, AC Milan’s pre-season preparation. Dietmar Hamann also stayed behind as he was negotiating his transfer from Newcastle United to Liverpool.
Injuries ruled out the likes of Markus Babbel, Jens Jeremies, Oliver Kahn (all Bayern Munich), Ulf Kirsten, Stefan Beinlich, Jens Nowotny (all Bayer Leverkusen), Marko Rehmer (Hertha Berlin) and Marco Bode (Werder Bremen).
Ribbeck called up five previously uncapped players: Enke, Schneider, Maul, Gerber and Dogan. He had initially called up Karlsruhe’s goalkeeper Simon Jentzsch (in the Second Division). However, due to the Two goalkeepers ruling, Ribbeck took out Jentzsch and called up Rink.
USA opted to leave out its star Claudio Reyna (Rangers Glasgow) as well as Bundesliga-based Tonny Sanneh (Hertha Berlin).
The participants would be drawn in two Groups. Group A (at Mexico City) contained hosts Mexico along with Bolivia, Egypt and Saudi Arabia.
Group B (at Guadalajara) contained Brazil, Germany, USA and New Zealand.
The Tournament (and Group B) kicked off on July 24th with what would have been a mouth-watering clash between Brazil and Germany. However, the weakened state of both teams took the gloss of the event (as well as its final result).
The Brazilian squad was better prepared and match ready due to the recent Copa America. Germany resisted for an hour before Brazil opened the floodgates and demolished the tiring Germans (4-0). 
Erich Ribbeck later declared, “at 0-2, I could live with it but 0-4 hurts”.
On the same day, USA defeated New Zealand (2-1).

Photo From: FIFA Report- 1999 Mexico
(July 24, 1999, FIFA Confederations Cup, Brazil 4-Germnay 0)

Photo From: FIFA Report- 1999 Mexico
(July 24, 1999, FIFA Confederations Cup, Brazil 4-Germnay 0)

Photo From: FIFA Report- 1999 Mexico
(July 24, 1999, FIFA Confederations Cup, New Zealand 1-USA 2)

Photo From: FIFA Report- 1999 Mexico
(July 24, 1999, FIFA Confederations Cup, New Zealand 1-USA 2)

Four days later (July 26th), Germany defeated New Zealand (2-0) with the ageing (38 year old) Lothar Matthaus scoring one of the goals.
Brazil defeated USA (1-0) with the emerging Ronaldinho settling matters with a header.

Photo From: FIFA Report- 1999 Mexico
(July 28, 1999, FIFA Confederations Cup, Germnay 2-New Zealand 0)

Photo From: FIFA Report- 1999 Mexico
(July 28, 1999, FIFA Confederations Cup, Brazil 1-USA 0)

On July 30th, Group B play wrapped up with Brazil predictably defeating New Zealand (2-0) to win the Group.
Second place in the Group was in play as USA faced Germany. The Americans would compound on the Germans’ misery with a second win (2-0) over them in the same calendar year (after the 3-0 in the previous February).
Naturally the German Press had its knives out for the embarrassing displays (despite the weakened state and general dis-interest of the squad).
After the loss, German newspaper ‘Welt am Sontag’ came out with a headline reading, “how could Germany embarrass themselves like that?”
Former coaching great Uddo Latteck described the trip as a fiasco that would have consequences.
He stated,  “Our players didn’t play with each other, but alongside each other. Why can’t they enjoy the game the way Americans did? The deeper causes lie in our German mentality. We Germans are far too serious, we forget about having fun when we play”. He also suggested that Ribbeck should resign.
Franz Beckenbauer thought differently, his goal was the 2006 World Cup. He stated, “we’ve opened the gate a bit wider for 2006, because now that we are losing matches like other teams we’ve become a bit more likeable”.

Photo From: FIFA Report- 1999 Mexico
(July 30, 1999, FIFA Confederations Cup, USA 2-Germnay 0)

Group A matches kicked off on July 25th with Bolivia-Egypt (2-2) and the Mexican hosts hammering Saudi Arabia (5-1).

Photo From: FIFA Report- 1999 Mexico
(July 25, 1999, FIFA Confederations Cup, Mexico 5-Saudi Arabia 1)

Photo From: FIFA Report- 1999 Mexico
(July 25, 1999, FIFA Confederations Cup, Mexico 5-Saudi Arabia 1)

Photo From: FIFA Report- 1999 Mexico
(July 25, 1999, FIFA Confederations Cup, Bolivia 2-Egypt 2)

Photo From: FIFA Report- 1999 Mexico
(July 25, 1999, FIFA Confederations Cup, Bolivia 2-Egypt 2)

This Group always appeared a formality for the hosts, although they were somewhat complacent for their second match vs. Egypt on July 27th. They let a (2-0) lead slip away and settled for a (2-2) draw as the Egyptians scored twice in the last ten minutes.
This Group was very much in play on the last day of Group matches (July 29th).
Egypt failed to build on its showing vs. Mexico and were comprehensively beaten by Saudi Arabia (5-1) with Marzouq Al-Otaibi scoring four of their goals.
Mexico defeated Bolivia (1-0) to win the Group and advance along with Saudi Arabia to the semifinals.

Photo From: FIFA Report- 1999 Mexico
(July 27, 1999, FIFA Confederations Cup, Saudi Arabia 0-Bolivia 0)

Photo From: Mediotiempo.com
(July 29, 1999, FIFA Confederations Cup, Mexico 1-Bolivia 0)

The semifinals took place on August 1st with Mexico facing USA at the Azteca and Brazil taking on Saudi Arabia at Guadalajara.
The Mexico-USA match was a tight affair with both teams having chances. USA goalkeeper Kasey Keller was in excellent form and kept the hosts at bay with many fine saves. The Match was scoreless and had to go to overtime.
In the 7th minute of the overtime, Mexico finally breached the American defense through Cuauhtémoc Blanco after a goalmouth scramble. The match ended due to the Golden Goal rule.

Photo From: World Soccer, September 1999
(August 1, 1999, FIFA Confederations Cup, Mexico 1-USA 0)

Photo From: FIFA Report- 1999 Mexico
(August 1, 1999, FIFA Confederations Cup, Mexico 1-USA 0)

The Brazil-Saudi Arabia match was feast of goals. Brazil had taken a quick two-goal lead but Saudi Arabia fought their way back to tie with two goals by Mazrouk Al-Otaibi (scoring his 5th and 6th goals).
Brazil would score two more goals before halftime and would score four more goals in the second half for a final score (8-2) with Ronaldinho scoring a hat trick. Many observers believed Brazil’s second half performance was their best in the entire Tournament.

Photo From: FIFA Report- 1999 Mexico
 (August 1, 1999, FIFA Confederations Cup, Brazil 8-Saudi Arabia 2)

On August 3rd, USA defeated Saudi Arabia (2-0) in the third place match to end the Tournament on a satisfactory note. The Americans’ highlight had been the win over Germany, as well as hard contested matches vs. Brazil and Mexico.
Mexico faced Brazil for the Final in Azteca on August 4th.
This match would turn out to be the best match of the Tournament.
Mexico would take a two-goal lead through Zepeda and Abundis, before Brazil pulled a goal back before the end of the half through a Serginho penalty kick.
Blanco had scored another goal that was unjustly ruled out as offside.
Brazil would tie the score just two minutes into the second half through Roni.
Just a few minutes later, Zepeda restored Mexico’s advantage and ten minutes later Blanco scored Mexico’s fourth to give them a seemingly unassailable lead.
However, just a minute later Ze Roberto pulled another goal back for Brazil.
Mexico would have to hold on for nearly half an hour but they did and for the first time a host Nation won the Confederations Cup.

Photo From: FIFA Report- 1999 Mexico
 (August 4, 1999, FIFA Confederations Cup, Mexico 4-Brazil 3)

Photo From: FIFA Report- 1999 Mexico
 (August 4, 1999, FIFA Confederations Cup, Mexico 4-Brazil 3)

While Mexico were basking in the glory of winning a somewhat major Tournament, Brazil and Germany reflected on their performances.
Brazil played many matches that were average by their standards (save the second half vs. Saudi Arabia). Their only excuse was the fact that they were a weakened side without many regulars.
The satisfactory note for Brazil was Ronaldinho. His displays confirmed his growing reputation as Brazil’s star of the future.
Germany looked the worst after a Tournament that they wished they had not participated in.
They were also criticized after Lothar Matthaus failed to attend a ceremony at the Azteca where he and former Mexican goalkeeper Antonio Carbajal were to be honored for having taken part in five World Cups.
Germany Manager Erich Ribbeck summed it up by stating, “We came here to comply with the wishes of our Federation, who are seeking to organize the next World Cup. I did not bring my best players.”
Despite the growing stature of this competition, it was still regarded more as a nuisance by bigger Nations in an already bloated calendar.
FIFA had to find a solution to satisfy the calendar as well ensure quality of participants to maintain the Competition.

France Football, Issue 2780 bis, July 23, 1999
France Football, Issue 2781, July 27, 1999
France Football, Issue 2781 bis, July 30, 1999
France Football, Issue 2782, August 3, 1999
France Football, Issue 2782 bis, August 6, 1999
FIFA Report- 1999 Mexico
World Soccer, September 1999

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