European champions Portugal take on CONCACAF Gold Cup winners Mexico for the second time at the FIFA 2017 Confederations Cup in Russia, this time in Sunday’s third-place playoff in Moscow.
The two teams met earlier in the tournament at the group stage in Kazan, where they played out an entertaining 2-2 draw, with Mexico twice coming from behind.
Both teams progressed from Group A on seven points, but the Europeans and Gold Cup winners find themselves clashing again in Russia for the second time in just under a fortnight, after Portugal lost their semifinal against a Claudio Bravo-inspired Chile on penalties and Mexico were well beaten by Germany 4-1 in their match.
Portugal are without captain Cristiano Ronaldo, who returned home to meet his newborn twin sons for the first time following the semifinal defeat. Left-sided defender Raphael Guerreiro has also left the squad through injury.
Head coach Fernando Santos looks set to give game time to those who have featured less frequently so far in Russia, meaning goalkeeper Jose Sa could make his international debut.
Luis Neto, of Russian club Zenit St. Petersburg, could also come into the starting team in defense, while youngster Gelson Martins and Pizzi could also feature at Spartak Stadium on Sunday.
For Mexico, fresh from their mauling at the hands of Germany, the game against Portugal offers a chance to end on their campaign on a high.
Top goalscorer Javier ‘Chicharito’ Hernandez has spoken of the team’s disappointment at that defeat, but also of how focused the players are on leaving Russia with some reward for their efforts.
Coach Juan Carlos Osorio has rotated his team throughout the tournament – often to the chagrin of fans – and is likely to take the same approach against the Portuguese.
Rodolfo Cota could come in to take over from Guillermo Ochoa between the sticks, while in front of him veteran defender Rafa Marquez could be in line for a start to add to his tally of over 140 caps.
Youngster Jurgen Damm may also start on the flank for El Tri, and 21-year-old Hirving Lozano, who scored against Russia, could return up front.
Mexico came from behind twice during the group stage game against Portugal – the latter occasion through defender Hector Moreno’s injury-time header – and showed fighting spirit right until the end against Germany, with Marco Fabian scoring a late wonder strike in a frantic finale to a game that had looked done and dusted.
That perseverance is typical of the Mexican team, although they will want to focus on keeping things tighter early on and not having to chase the game, as has been the case in all their matches in Russia so far.
Portugal boast the better head-to-head record over the last four games, with two wins and two draws.
It’s the second time the European champions are playing in Moscow at the Confed Cup, having beaten hosts Russia at Spartak Stadium in the group stage, while Mexico are playing in the Russian capital for the first time at the 2017 Tournament of Champions.