BY KUNLE SOLAJA
Virtually every participant is a champion. It serves as a convergence of continental champions, World Cup holders and World Cup next hosts.
It is a dress rehearsal for the 2018 World Cup. It is the unfolding of what should be expected when Russia hosts the World Cup next year.
Eight teams from all the continents gather for the competition. In Group A are Russia, the hosts, New Zealand, Portugal and Mexico. Group B has Cameroon, Chile, Australia and Germany.
This edition has a different complexion from the previous ones. It is the first Confederations Cup to involve three teams from the same confederation, in this case UEFA. Each of the last four editions featured only two European sides.
The 10th edition of the Confederation Cup (eighth under the name as the first two editions were called Intercontinental Cup) kicks off on Saturday with Russia facing New Zealand in Saint Petersburg at 4pm, Nigerian time.
It is an encounter that brings to memory a similar encounter 35 years ago when the then Soviet Union beat New Zealand 3-0 at the 1982 World Cup in Spain.
The odds weight heavily in favour of Russia who are appearing in the competition for the first time. No host team has lost its opening match since the 2001 edition when France beat Korea Republic 5-0.
Sports Village Square recalls that three out of nine Confederations Cup competitions have been won by the host nation, namely Mexico in 1999, France in 2003 and Brazil in 2015.
Since 2001, the home sides have recorded three wins and one draw in the last four editions. New Zealand are still looking for their first victory in the Confederations Cup.
In nine matches spanning three previous participations, they secured just one draw against Iraq in 2009, after losing eight in a row.
The All Whites netted their last goal on June 20, 2003, edging ahead against Colombia through Raf De Gregorio before ultimately losing 3-1. The Kiwis have since played four matches and a total of 423 minutes without finding the net.
RUSSIA are making their bow in the tournament.
This is the first Confederations Cup to involve three teams from the same confederation, in this case UEFA.
Each of the last four editions featured only two European sides.
Three out of nine Confederations Cups have been won by the host nation, namely Mexico in 1999, France in 2003 and Brazil in 2015.
NEW ZEALAND are participating in their fourth Confederations Cup after the 1999, 2003 and 2009 editions, although they have never made it beyond the opening round.
Of the nine Confederations Cup fixtures they have contested, New Zealand lost the first eight before achieving a 0-0 draw with Iraq in their last group game at the 2009 tournament.
The All Whites qualified for the Confederations Cup on 11 June 2016, when they won the OFC Nations Cup with a penalty shoot-out victory over Papua New Guinea.