Euro champs & Gold Cup kings set for Confed Cup clash in Kazan

18 Jun, 2017 13:40
Euro champs & Gold Cup kings set for Confed Cup clash in Kazan
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Jose Sa and Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal) during training ahead of the match against Mexico of the 2017 FIFA Confederations Cup © Anton Denisov / Sputnik

Russian city of Kazan is the setting for the second match of the FIFA 2017 Confederations Cup between European champions Portugal and CONCACAF Gold Cup winners Mexico.

Fellow Confederations Cup Group A teams Russia and New Zealand opened the tournament in St. Petersburg on Saturday, with the hosts running out comfortable 2-0 winners.

European champions Portugal, captained by the relentless Cristiano Ronaldo, will look to build on their success in France last summer and prove that they are also contenders for the Tournament of Champions and next year’s World Cup in Russia.

Manager Fernando Santos has selected a strong squad, blending mainstays of the team such as Real Madrid megastar Ronaldo with exciting young talent like Bernardo Silva, who recently made a $55 million move from French side Monaco to Manchester City.

There’s massive experience in the team with record appearance holder Ronaldo, defenders Bruno Alves and Pepe, and winger Nani – all of whom have caps either in treble figures or approaching that number.  

As well as Bernardo Silva, 21-year-old striker Andre Silva - who plays his club football for Porto and has netted 7 goals in just 8 international appearances - is another emerging star to watch in Russia.

READ MORE: FIFA 2017 Confederations Cup: Meet 5 young stars set to shine in Russia

As ever though, much of the focus will be on Ronaldo – Portugal’s record scorer on 73 goals – and who will perhaps face even more scrutiny given the recent tax scandal that has arisen in Spain, and that has led to rumors he is seeking a move away from the Bernabeu.

Portugal, who are making their debut at the Confederations Cup, go into the clash with Mexico on the back of a convincing 3-0 World Cup qualifying win away against Latvia.

READ MORE: Remarkable Ronaldo: Test your knowledge of Portugal's serial record-breaker (QUIZ)

Santos opted for a 4-4-2 formation in that game, and it’s likely he’ll deploy the same system against Mexico on Sunday.

Mexico head into Sunday’s clash having drawn 1-1 with the USA in their latest World Cup qualifier, although prior to that they earned comfortable victories over Honduras in a qualifying game and Ireland in a friendly, winning 3-0 and 3-1 respectively.

Manager Juan Carlos Osorio has called on his main men for the tournament in Russia, including top scorer Javier Hernandez – aka Chicharito.

Veteran defender Rafa Marquez is also in the squad,a dn if he does get game time in Russia he will become the second-oldest player ever to appear at the Confed Cup at age 38 (the oldest was Tunisian goalkeeper Ali Boumnijel, who was 39 years and two months when he appeared at the 2005 tournament in Germany.

Osorio has opted for an attacking 4-3-3 line-up in recent games, with Hernandez, Carlos Vela and Hirving Lozano up front, and could look to deploy the same forward-thinking approach against Portugal.

In the pre-match press conference, Osorio showed respect for Portugal, but also warned of his own team’s attacking prowess.

"If we apply it to perfection we have a very good chance of beating Portugal. They are a great team but we're pretty good too," the 56-year-old said

Mexico are making their seventh appearance at a Confederations Cup tournament – a record they share with Brazil. They won the title as hosts in 1999 thanks to a thrilling 4-3 win against Brazil in the final, and are the only previous winners of the trophy among the teams at Russia 2017.

READ MORE: 'Expect one big fiesta!' - El Coronel of Mexican fan group 'Pancho Villa's Army' on Confed Cup

After Sunday’s game, Portugal will face hosts Russia in Moscow on Wednesday, while Mexico meet New Zealand in Sochi on the same day.