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World Cup warm-up

Lucio versus Toni at Confederations Cup

The 2005 Confederations Cup in Germany proved an accurate foretaste to the festival of football at the 2006 World Cup the following year. Brazil thrilled the crowds, Germany played attacking football, the goals per game average was 3.5, and the total attendance exceeded 600,000. “We had a pretty much continuous party atmosphere,” Franz Beckenbauer enthused. The next edition of the World Cup dress rehearsal opens in South Africa on Sunday, and organisers are naturally hoping the Confed Cup, which runs from 14-28 June, will turn out an equally successful prelude to the 2010 World Cup.

European champions Spain, Asian champions Iraq, Oceania champions New Zealand and hosts South Africa contest Group A, although most football fans and experts will feel Group B offers the more enticing prospect. The section includes African champions Egypt and North American champions USA, along with World Cup holders Italy and South American champions Brazil. The last two, joint favourites to lift the trophy, go head-to-head on 21 June.

Brazil on a roll

Bayern stars Luca Toni and Lucio will be in the thick of the action. “We’re aiming for the trophy. That’s our target,” intoned Brazil skipper Lucio, who is something of a Confed Cup connoisseur, as this will be the defender’s fourth appearance. He was part of the victorious Selecao in 2005, and is determined to defend the trophy, although he has been seeking to dampen expectations of late: “We’re not the overwhelming favourites.”

However, Brazil arrive in South Africa on a wave of optimism. Victories over Uruguay (4-0) and Paraguay (2-1) have returned the five-times winners to the top of the South American World Cup qualifying standings. “I know it’s a completely different competition, but the two qualifying victories were incredibly important, as they’ve given us a boost for our next matches,” Lucio stated.