Confed Cup begins today

Agence France Presse

Frankfurt, June 14:

The players limbered up on Monday for the Confederations Cup as German fans rushed to snap up match tickets, showing the considerable interest in the dress rehearsal for next year’s World Cup. The eight-nation tournament kicks off on Wednesday when host nation Germany take on Australia in Frankfurt while Argentina tackle Tunisia in Cologne. Germany is using the 16-match event as a mini-World Cup, one year ahead of the real thing. While Brazilian superstar Ronaldinho sat out one of his teammates’ training sessions ahead of their opening match against European champions Greece on Thursday, Germany coach Jurgen Klinsmann faced the massed ranks of the home media. Klinsmann was forced to defend his youthful defence despite strong criticism following last week’s 2-2 friendly draw with Russia. “I am aware that there were a lot of discussions about our defence after the Russia game,” Klinsmann said.

“It is a learning curve but we will not budge from four at the back. The system suits us and we have the players to fit in. We have a young team and players make mistakes. But there is no team in world football that is perfect.” Australia are hoping they can count on striker Mark Viduka who has played only a few minutes for his English Premiership side Middlesbrough this year due to a hamstring injury. While Viduka worked out with physiotherapists, there was better news for Australia coach Frank Farina when in-form forward John Aloisi joined up with the squad after finishing on the losing side for his club Osasuna in the Spanish Cup final at the weekend. Reigning world champions Brazil, who lost a tough World Cup qualifier to Argentina last week, eased into their preparations. Ronaldinho was not injured, just feeling aches and pains after a long club season with Spanish giants Barcelona, Brazil coach Carlos Alberto Parreira said. “Ronaldinho is tired and has foot pain but it is not serious,” he said, adding he was counting on his star as well as fellow midfielder Emerson for Thursday’s match. The event pitting champions of the FIFA continental confederations against each other has been criticised because it runs into the closing stages of some European leagues and cup competitions.