FRANKFURT: The brilliance of Brazil, the artistry of Argentina and the guile of Germany were all on show at the 2005 Confederations Cup but was the tournament a success or a superfluous fixture pile-up?
From a sporting aspect the competition offered a lot, with 37 goals scored in the 12 group games and average crowds of 36,000 packing the venues.
Fantastic goals, such as the left-footed missile from Brazil's Adriano against Greece, or Riquelme's exquisite free-kick for Argentina against Germany, helped to attract in excess of 10 million viewers per match in Germany alone.
Aside from the host nation the seven other participants – Argentina, Greece, Mexico, Japan, Brazil, Tunisia and Australia – ensured a global audience and the tournament was broadcast to 170 countries.
“The Confederations Cup is becoming increasingly popular and has its own image and character,” said Franz Beckenbauer, head of the 2006 World Cup organising committee.
For German organisers the competition was always a significant test for the main event in 12 months time but some questioned the wisdom of more fixtures after gruelling domestic seasons.
“Tournaments like the Confederations Cup should be abolished because the players are just too tired,” said Brazil superstar Ronaldo.
Real Madrid marksman Ronaldo chose to go on holiday instead of representing Brazil here.
Brazil coach Carlos Alberto Parreira did admit some of his top players were showing signs of fatigue but his team still managed to win the tournament, routing Argentina 4-1 in Wednesday's final.
Some players were believed to have played out of fear of losing their spot for next year's World Cup but the passion was there for all to see.
The disappointment of the losing semi-finalists Germany and Mexico was only bettered by Argentina who were crushed by their South American foes Brazil in the Frankfurt final.
The next Confederations Cup hosts South Africa have a lot to live up to in 2009 as they prepare for the World Cup a year later.
National anthems sung with pride and colourful fans helped give the Confederations Cup some atmosphere and in that respect it was a huge improvement on the last competition in France two years ago.
“The FIFA Confederations Cup is now a universally accepted and appreciated event,” said FIFA president Sepp Blatter. “This competition is no longer simply a road test.”
But Germany saw it as a chance to win over their demanding public and the World Cup organisers admitted they were more interested in fixing things before next year's tournament.
The five stadia used in Frankfurt, Nuremberg, Cologne, Leipzig and Hannover all proved themselves worthy World Cup venues while training facilities, local transport and friendly volunteers were positives from this dress rehearsal.
The emergence of pitch invaders was the main setback for organisers with the sight of four stewards trying to catch an uninvited man in Germany's semi-final with Brazil leaving the hosts a touch embarrassed.
This was not an isolated incident and German organisers will not want any pitch invaders or streakers at the World Cup.
This Confederations Cup has served as a nice appetiser for the main event in 12 months but its significance should not be over-hyped.
No team has gone on to win the World Cup after Confederations Cup glory and if Brazil fall in football's biggest showpiece they are unlikely to regard the win here as a consolation prize. – AFP