The FIFA Confederations Cup is an eight-team global competition that takes place every four years, and has organically developed into its current format where it is seen as a warm-up for the World Cup Finals.
The concept was born in the early 1990s, when Saudi Arabia hosted the King Fahd Cup in 1992. This tournament comprised of the hosts and a number of continental championship winners – South American champions Argentina, North and Central American champions the United States, and African champions Côte d’Ivoire. A second such competition in 1995 was expanded to six teams, with the Saudis as hosts before FIFA gave official status to the tournament which was rebadged as the FIFA Confederations Cup in 1997. Saudi Arabia were chosen as hosts for the third time – again as Asian Champions – and for the first time representatives from all of the FIFA confederations came together for the first time in any tournament outside of the FIFA World Cup.
From 1999 until 2005 the competition was held every two years, and in 2005 was placed on a four-year cycle with the competition being awarded to the host nation of the forthcoming FIFA World Cup. Now marketed as a high-profile event in its own right, the FIFA Confederations Cup effectively became a dress rehearsal and for the World Cup finals set to take place the following year.
The eight competing teams include the hosts, the current FIFA World Cup champions and the winners of the six FIFA federation championships. In cases where the World Cup winners are also confederation champions, the World Cup runner-up is also invited; if there is further “duplication” – as was the case in 2005 when Brazil were both FIFA World Cup holders and South American champions and where World Cup runners-up Germany were also the hosts – the runner-up in the World Cup winner’s regional tournament will usually make up the final eight. As the tournament is invitational teams can choose to not to take part, with absentees usually being replaced with the “next best” team.
Germany’s Participation and Record
The German national team has participated in three editions of the FIFA Confederations Cup: as reigning European Champions in Mexico 1999, as tournament hosts in 2005, and more recently as he current World Champions in Russia in 2017.
The Mannschaft’s first Confederations Cup tournament would see Erich Ribbeck take a squad of inexperienced journeymen to Mexico, with the results bordering on the humiliating. The standard of play was arguably more embarrassing than the actual results, and Ribbeck’s team were eliminated at the group stage.
The DFB would decline to take part in the 2003 tournament, handing their place as World Cup runners-up to third-place finishers Turkey. It was not the first time that the invitation had been declined; Germany had earned a spot at the 1997 tournament as reigning European Champions, but had chosen not to take part due to the tournament being held in the Middle East during the Bundesliga’s winter break. The slot was instead taken by the Czech Republic, runners-up at Euro 96.
While turning down the invitation in 1997 had made sense, the German federation’s decision to not participate in France in 2003 was a little harder to fathom. Though given the lack of squad depth at the time, it might have had something to do with the fear of taking fielding a weakened team – as had been the case in 1999.
There was no escape from the 2005 edition, where Germany were hosts ahead of the World Cup the following year. By this time young talent had started to come through, and Jürgen Klinsmann’s relatively inexperienced team would finish in a creditable third place, losing only to eventual winners Brazil. The tournament showed that German football had turned a major corner. In their five matches, Klinsmann’s exciting young side scored a total of fifteen goals.
Having missed out in the 2009 and 2013 tournaments, Germany would secure a spot at the 2017 tournament in Russia as reigning World Champions. Dismissed by some quarters as a B-team, the inexperienced squad coached by Jogi Löw would surpass all expectations, winning the trophy for the first time. After topping their four-team group, the young team would then destroy CONCACAF champions Mexico 4-1 in the semi-final before edging out back-to-back South American champions Chile in the final in St. Petersburg.
It was Germany’s eighth international trophy, and Joachim Löw’s second.
Germany’s Tournament Summary
Saudi Arabia 1997 (8 finalists) – Qualified as Euro 1996 champions, declined invitation
Mexico 1999 (8 finalists) – Qualified as Euro 1996 champions, eliminated in first phase
Korea/Japan 2001 (8 finalists) – Did not qualify
France 2003 (8 finalists) – Qualified as FIFA World Cup 2002 runners-up, declined invitation
Germany 2005 (8 finalists) – Qualified as hosts, third place
South Africa 2009 (8 finalists) – Did not qualify
Russia 2017 (8 finalists) – Qualified as FIFA World Cup 2014 winners, Champions