From humble beginnings

With the 2014 World Cup less than a year away, all eyes will be on Brazil over the next fortnight as they stage a dress rehearsal for next year's main event.

Among the eight participating nations in this year's Confederations Cup, which starts on Saturday, are some of the world's best footballers as they compete over 16 matches and six different venues to give a glimpse of what is in store in Brazil 2014.

From world champions Spain, to goal-line technology, to the romance of Tahiti's involvement, the tournament will be sure to attract the attention of football fans across the world.

The Confederations Cup has brought together the world and continental champions since the 1990s, but its origins can be traced back to a tournament that was once very different.

Now, the competition takes place every four years and features the reigning champions of the six confederations that make up Fifa, with Spain travelling as representatives of European governing body Uefa.

The final two places are taken by the World Cup holders, plus the next hosts, although with Spain the reigning world and European champions, Euro 2012 runners-up Italy have been invited as the eighth team.

In 1980, Uruguay hosted the Copa D'Oro, also known as the Little World Cup, to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the World Cup, which had also been held in Uruguay. The six winners of the World Cup were all invited, with only England declining the invitation. Their place was taken by the Netherlands, World Cup runners-up in 1974 and 1978.

The next attempt at a global competition outside of the World Cup was the Artemio Franchi Trophy, contested in 1985 and 1993 between the winners of the European Championships and the Copa America and named after the late Uefa president.

By then, the Confederations Cup had already been born in all but name. The first King Fahd Cup, named after Saudi Arabia's leader, was held in the Arab state in 1992 and is recognised by Fifa as the first staging of the current tournament. It was played between the Saudi national team and three continental champions: Argentina, USA and Ivory Coast. Three years later, the European and Asian champions also took part to swell the number of teams to six.

In 1997 Fifa became the organisers of the renamed Confederations Cup. It initially took place biennially but since 2005 has been held every four years as a dress rehearsal for the World Cup.

What is the point?
Having started as a relatively small-time affair between the winners of four continental cups, the Confederations Cup is now of paramount importance.

This year's tournament, as it did for South Africa in 2009, Germany in 2005 and Japan and South Korea in 2001, gives Brazil the perfect opportunity to fine-tune its hosting skills ahead of putting on one of sport's greatest events next year.

The state of their stadiums, transport links, ticket sales, marketing campaigns and many other factors will be being tested out ahead of the next year's showpiece.

There were 160,000 of the 826,628 tickets remaining ahead of a 'last-minute sales stage' at the start of June.

"These figures prove that the Fifa Confederations Cup including four Fifa World Cup champions in the line-up is a highly anticipated event," said Thierry Weil, Fifa marketing director.

"The Brazilians will provide the global TV audience with a glimpse of what kind of stadium atmosphere to expect in 2014: full stands and a great reception for all teams in return for football at its best on the pitch."

While the Confederations Cup is very much regarded as a practice event for the following year's World Cup, Spain's Cesc Fabregas has been quick to stress the importance of the tournament to the players.

He said: "We will treat the competition as a World Cup or a European Championship; that feeling that you can finish your career after taking the European Championship, the World Cup and the Confederations is very important for us and for the fans even more."

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