Confederations Cup hosts Russia face a virtual quarter-final against Mexico as they look to progress into the semi-final stage of the tournament. Russia cruised to an easy 2-0 win over New Zealand in the first outing, but they were completely outsmarted by Portugal in the next after they failed to find a shot on target in a 1-0 defeat.
On the other hand, Mexico have looked comfortable in the tournament with a 2-2 against Portugal accompanied by a 2-1 comeback win over New Zealand, which eliminated the All Whites. The Gold Cup champions rested a whole host of players against the team down under, and they will have fresher players at their disposal when compared to the Russians.
The match on Saturday promises to be a thriller with the home crowd likely to push Russia towards the summit. Mexico require just a draw to qualify for the final four, and this could potentially leave the hosts with the hope that New Zealand clinch an almost miraculous victory over Portugal, which is unlikely to happen. For this, Russia will play for the win in Kazan with Fyodov Smolov likely to lead the line.
Players to watch for:
Fyodor Smolov (Russia): The 27-year-old found the net against the All Whites in the opener before drawing blank in the second outing. With Dzyuba not featuring, Smolov will have to take up the scoring burden against Mexico, who produce a mixed bag in world tournaments.
Carlos Vela (Mexico): The Real Sociedad forward has managed to integrate well in the Mexican squad following his struggles last year. Vela has two goals in five games in 2017, and he will sufficient support to Javier Hernandez upfront.
There is a vast difference between Russia and Mexico in terms of FIFA Rankings, 63 – 17, and this could set the result unless the hosts rise up to the occasion, Russia 1-3 Mexico.
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