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A Minnesotan's Guide to the Confederations Cup

Don't know which team to support? We've got you covered.

Brazil v Spain: Final - FIFA Confederations Cup Brazil 2013
Brazil won the 2013 edition.
Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

The 2017 Confederations Cup kicks off today in Russia. The international tournament is played once every four years, always in the host country the year before the World Cup. The premise of that competition is that the champion of each continent's confederation, plus the host country and World Cup holder (8 teams in total) meet for a trial run of the World Cup. It isn't necessarily the most appealing tournament, with just eight countries involved, but it is high quality soccer to watch in the summer nonetheless.

The United States Men's National Team is not involved in this tournament (Remember that extra-time loss to Mexico a while ago? That match was to play in this.), nor is Minnesota United (less obvious than you'd think). That would make it seem as though there are no compelling reasons for a Minnesotan to pay attention to this tournament, but there are few enough countries that all are are easy to support.

Group A

Russia

PFC CSKA Moscow v FC Orenburg - Russian Premier League
Orange ball on a snowy pitch? We can relate.
Photo by Epsilon/Getty Images

The hosts are not expected to do particularly well in this tournament. They're not going to be the worst team ever, but, like most expansion MLS teams, a lot of money got them here. Russia also gets snow and cold temperatures, very relateable for us. As far as I know, there is no word in Russian for hotdish, but Горячее блюдо is "hot dish" according to Google Translate.

If you can go without complaining about snow/ice/freezing temperatures from November to March, this is your team.

New Zealand

Northern Ireland v New Zealand - International Friendly
You probably can't name any of these players...
Photo by Charles McQuillan/Getty Images

The best thing that ever came out of New Zealand was the trilogy of Lord of the Rings movies. New Zealand are by far the most unknown team here. You might recall that they did manage to go undefeated in the 2010 World Cup, but were still eliminated. Sounds a bit like Minneapolis City SC, eh?

If you really hate losing, but don't really like winning either, this is your team.

Portugal

Portugal v Sweden - International Friendly
Cristiano Ronaldo—the best team in Europe.
Photo by Octavio Passos/Getty Images

In what was something of a shock, Portugal won the Euros last summer in France. Even more shocking was that they pulled out a 1-0 victory in extra-time to beat a strong host nation—without CR7. Ronaldo should be good to go for this tournament, and he has given great quotes to the media about how much he really wants to win the trial run of the World Cup.

If you'd like to spend your time laying on a beach with Ronaldo than shoveling snow for half the year, this is your team.

Mexico

Soccer: Croatia vs Mexico
Hey, we know these guys!
Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports

El Tri are representing CONCACAF (North America) in this tournament. Mexico has to juggle two competitions at once this summer, splitting their squad up between the Gold Cup in the United States and the Confederations Cup. They won't be an embarassment to North American soccer, but it's unlikely they'll win this.

If you are really good at multitasking, or always support the home team, this is your team.

Group B

Cameroon

Cameroon v Brazil: Group A - 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil
Now that's a uniform folks.
Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images

Cameroon took Africa by storm this winter, winning the African Cup of Nations without its core group of starters. It's hard not to be intimidated by Cameroon with those lions roaring at you from their shirts. Plus the kits from the 2014 World Cup (above) have a touch of ugly Christmas sweater in them, clearly a tribute to Minnesota.

If you are fashion-forward, or wear clothes with scary animals on them, this is your team.

Chile

2017 China Cup International Football Championship - Final
They won the 2017 Gree China Cup International Football Championship, so they're basically a lock to win this.
Photo by Lintao Zhang/Getty Images

Chile dazzled the Western Hemisphere in last summer's Copa America Centenario with their relentless high-intensity pressing. They also forced Leo Messi to temporarily retire from international soccer when they beat Argentina for the second year in a row in the final. Chile comes into this tournament red hot as they go road trippin' to the other side of the planet.

If you're the type of person who orders a "firecracker" burger, this is your team.

Australia

Brasil Global Tour: Australia v Brazil
(Global Sport) + (Australian Animal) = Socceroos
Photo by Michael Dodge/Getty Images for ICC

Yes, they've got soccer in the land down under. The Australian A-League is remarkably similar to Major League Soccer. Both even have mini-Manchester Cities (Melbourne City and NYCFC). Though the Aussies have their own continent, they play in the Asian confederation.

If you like doing things backwards, this is your team.

Germany

Germany v England - International Friendly
Willkommen, Deutschland!
Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

Germany are taking part of this because they won the 2014 World Cup, so they're representing the whole world in this tournament. That pressure shouldn't be too much though, as the Germans are used to the whole high-expectations thing. This is an aging team that will likely underperform.

If words such as Fremdschämen (exterior shame) or Treppenwitz (that moment when you think of a comeback just after an argument) are a regular part of your vocabulary, this is your team.