Russia will be hoping to clinch qualification to the semi-final stage of the Confederations Cup when they take on Euro 2016 winners Portugal in their second game in Group A. The 2018 World Cup hosts were largely unscathed against a lacklustre Newcastle outfit last time around, and this enabled them to cruise to a 2-0 victory over the All Whites.
On the other hand, Portugal could not produce a similar result versus Mexico as a late Hector Moreno goal levelled scores at 2-2 amid the disappointment of skipper Cristiano Ronaldo. Portugal had a bizarre group stage exit in their previous World Cup, and they will be hoping to step up the gas against a relatively inexperienced Russia defence.
Roman Shishkin, Viktor Vasin and Fyodor Kudryashov have just 31 caps between them, and these stats could be simply overtaken by Portugal’s Pepe, who is on 83 caps for his nation. Despite this, Portugal looked surprised by Mexico’s resilience last term, and they will have to guard against complacency once more against their European counterparts.
Players to watch for:
Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal): Ronaldo has had a lot going around him in recent days. The Portuguese hero has been alleged of tax fraud by Spanish authorities, and this has urged him to consider his Real Madrid future ahead of the transfer window. Nevertheless, his country needs him the most on Wednesday with Andre Silva not quite the force without the talismanic captain.
Fyodor Smolov (Russia): The Krasnodar striker is the number one option for Russia amid the injury absence of Artem Dzyuba, and he dually delivered with the second goal in the 2-0 win over the All Whites. The Portugal backline has remained solid with Pepe and Jose Fonte in the middle, and the 27-year-old would need some assistance from the creative players including Denis Glushakov and Aleksandr Golovin.
Russia are often a hit and miss on the global stage, but they remain a capable force in their home nation. The match could be leaning towards another draw for Portugal unless Ronaldo sparks to life.
Russia 1-1 Portugal
Image – Getty