Confederations Cup preview: Group A

Welcome to the World Game’s in-depth preview of the 2007 Confederations Cup. First, we are taking a look at Group A, which houses the host nation (Russia), the European champion (Portugal), the North American champion (Mexico) and the champions of Oceania (New Zealand).

GDS CR7

Giovanni dos Santos of Mexico, Cristiano Ronaldo of Portugal and Marco Rojas of Ne Zealand. Source: Getty Images

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Group A Fixtures:

Date

Match

Kickoff (AEST)

Jun 18

Russia vs New Zealand

1am

Jun 19

Portugal vs Mexico

1am

Jun 22

Russia vs Portugal

1am

Jun 22

Mexico vs New Zealand

4am

Jun 25

Mexico vs Russia

1am

Jun 25

New Zealand vs Portugal

1am

Russia

World Ranking: 63

Coach: Stanislav Cherchesov (2016-)

How they qualified: 2018 FIFA World Cup hosts

Previous Confederations Cup appearances: 0 (Debut)

Outlook: This squad is a long way from the impressive Russian teams of the past, especially Guus Hiddink’s side that went all the way to the Euro 2008 semi-finals. Gone are the international stars from across Europe, replaced by a hard-working team based exclusively in Russia. While that will surely make them very united, they’ll need to ride the wave of patriotism sweeping the nation if they are to make it through the group stages. It’s not the strongest group though, so they could well make it.

Predicted line-up: (3-5-2): Akinfeev; Kudryashov, Vasin, Shishkin; Kombarov, Glushakov, Golovin, Gazinsky, Samedov; Polov, Smoloz.

Key Player: Fyodor Smolov (Krasnodar)

The one-time Feyenoord striker has been in scintillating form again in the Russian Premier League this season (18 goals in 22 games), finally justifying the hype that accompanied his arrival from the youth ranks many years ago. The 27-year old is coming of age and is the focal point of attack in the post-Aleksandr Kerzhakov era.

Prediction: First-round exit

New Zealand

World Ranking: 95

Coach: Anthony Hudson (2014-)

How they qualified: 2018 FIFA World Cup hosts

Previous Confederations Cup appearances: 3 (1999, 2003, 2009)

Outlook: Don’t be fooled by the ranking – this New Zealand team can seriously play. In fact, they might give some of their opponents a run for their money. They might even sneak a win or two. There’s a couple of questions about their defence but in midfield and attack, they have genuine international pedigree that shouldn’t be underestimated.

Predicted line-up (4-2-3-1): Moss; Smith, Tzimopoulos, Durante, Roux; McGlinchey, Tuiloma; Thomas, Rojas, Barbarouses; Wood

Key Player: Chris Wood (Leeds United)

He scored 27 goals for Leeds this season and very nearly single-handedly carried them to promotion – a hell of a feat in itself. Wood is a proven performer for the national team, with 19 goals in 49 games, and with the supply of Kosta Barbarouses and Marco Rojas, he should add to that tally.

Prediction: First-round exit

Portugal

World Ranking: 8

Coach: Fernando Santo (2014-)

How they qualified: 2016 European Championship winners

Previous Confederations Cup appearances: 0 (Debut)

Outlook: An improbable team to be representing Europe, Portugal didn’t win a single game in normal time during the Euros and still came out on top. They’ll still be riding the high of that unbelievable triumph and that goodwill should take them a long way here. And they’ve got Cristiano Ronaldo, which means they can't be written off.

Predicted line-up (4-2-2-2): Patricio; Cedric, Pepe, Fonte, Guerreiro; Carvalho, Gomes; Bernardo, Gelson; Ronaldo, Silva.

Key Player: Cristiano Ronaldo (Real Madrid)

Fresh from a brilliant display in the UEFA Champions League final, Ronaldo comes into this tournament looking for another piece of international silverware. The question isn’t so much about talent as it is about fatigue – he’s hardly had a week off and we all remember how grumpy he was because of that during the 2014 World Cup. He should at least get some support from newly-minted Milan forward André Silva.

Prediction: Semi-Finalist

Mexico

World Ranking: 17

Coach: Juan Carlos Osorio (2015-)

How they qualified: 2015 CONCACAF Cup winners

Previous Confederations Cup appearances: 6 (1995, 1997, 1999, 2001, 2005, 2013)

Outlook: El Tri is something of a perma-fixture at FIFA events, thanks to their continued dominance of North America. Looking at their squad, it’s not hard to see why. It’s unified, experienced collection that has a wealth of talent, especially in tournament play, and should be looking to move beyond the group stages.

Predicted line-up (4-2-3-1): Ochoa; Reyes, Moreno, Reyes, Layun; dos Santos, Herrera; Vela, Fabian, Lozano; Hernandez.

Key Player: Giovani dos Santos (Los Angeles Galaxy)

A relative veteran of the international stage, Dos Santos is only 28 but already has 93 caps to his name. The ex-Barcelona junior finally found his “happy place” in the football world and that is in Los Angeles, where he’s scored 24 goals in 53 MLS games. Not bad for an attacking midfielder.

Prediction: Semi-finalist


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5 min read
Published 17 June 2017 at 9:15pm
By Sebastian Hassett