Kaka heads stars on show as Lippi fears cup hoodoo

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The Independent Online

Cristiano Ronaldo may not be here but Kaka, his new Real Madrid team-mate, certainly is and so are a glittering array of other galacticos. The eight-nation Confederations Cup starting tomorrow might not set the pulse racing in Britain but for those taking part, the World Cup dress rehearsal represents a significant test of how far they have come almost exactly a year before the real thing.

The tournament, traditionally held the summer before the World Cup finals and featuring the champions from each of Fifa's six confederations plus the world champions and the next World Cup hosts, is still regarded in some cynical quarters as no more than a money-making exercise and an attempt by the world governing body to give international football needless greater exposure. But respect for the three-week tournament is nevertheless growing. The three heavyweights, Brazil, Spain and Italy, have all sent virtually full-strength squads and there are some tasty encounters in store, not least Italy's clash with Brazil.

"We're going to treat it with respect but the team that wins the Confederations Cup never wins the World Cup so I'm not sure I want to win it," said Italy coach Marcelo Lippi. Brazil, having lifted mounting pressure on their coach Dunga with back-to-back wins over Uruguay and Paraguay, are the holders and their very presence ensures a healthy global audience, especially with Kaka on board.

Although European champions Spain are not exactly brimming with Confederations Cup fever given Real Madrid president Florentino Perez's apparent attempt to buy up all of Europe's best players, it will be fascinating to see how far they can extend a 32-game unbeaten run.

Confederations Cup: Who plays who

*Group A

South Africa, Iraq, New Zealand, Spain

*Group B

Brazil, United States, Egypt, Italy

*Semi-finals

24 June (Bloemfontein) and 25 June (Johannesburg)

*Third-place play-off

28 June (Rustenburg)

*Final 28 June

(Johannesburg)

*All games live on BBC3/BBCi

*Games to be held at Bloemfontein, Johannesburg, Pretoria and Rustenberg

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