The 2017 Confederations Cup started off with a bang as Russia took on New Zealand at the St. Petersburg Arena. The gap between the two sides on paper was huge, the Russians were competing in a high-quality league and most were in a European competition last season. While New Zealand had a team made up of players who play their football in Australia and the lower leagues in England. I think the New Zealand rugby team would probably be more of a match for Russia than their current crop of players.
Denis Glushakov opened the scoring for Russia after half an hour after he dinked the ball over the Kiwi keeper. The ball didn’t go in directly from Glushakov’s chip but it came off the post and hit poor Michael Boxall and went into the back of the net. The goal really did sum up the game to that point, scrappy and of a poor quality. Before that, Russia hit the post from a header, only to see it be cleared off the line by Michael McGlinchey. I wouldn’t say the Russians had dominated the first half but New Zealand weren’t exactly posing much of a threat.
Fedor Smolov added a second for Russia after he poked home from a low-cross, much to the delight of Vladimir Putin who watched on from the stands alongside FIFA president Gianni Infantino, a friendship that probably isn’t quite as strong as Putin had with the former president, Sepp Blatter. New Zealand threatened to pull one back in the closing stages after they forced a good save from Igor Akinfeev and a goal-line clearance from, former Chelsea man, Yuri Zhirkov but Russia held on to take all 3 points.
Day Two sees Portugal face Mexico, it will be the first time Cristiano Ronaldo has played since allegedly asking to leave Real Madrid so he, for once, will probably be wanting to keep a low profile. Portugal are looking for yet more success after their Euro 2016 triumph last summer in France. Their hero in the final, Eder, doesn’t make the squad this time around and is replaced by new AC Milan signing Andre Silva who looks very talented indeed so look out for him. And yes, that does mean we get double the excitement we got on Day One with 2 matches in one day. Well we could probably get double the excitement of Russia vs New Zealand in the first minute of either of the games of Sunday.
Meanwhile in Group B, Arsenal fans may get to see Alexis Sanchez but the winger is a doubt for Chile’s game at 7pm as they take on the African Cup of Nations champions, Cameroon. The Indomitable Lions from West Africa have an exciting young team but will probably be out-gunned by the Chileans who have world-class players at their disposal, and Claudio Bravo. Chile have won the last two Copa Amerca’s, one on home soil and a centenary one in the United States. But will they add another trophy to their collection?
Lee Dixon’s outfit in the ITV studio summed up the importance of this tournament as he looked more like he was going down the pub than analysing a football game. Get set for another enthralling day at the Confed Cup in Russia.