In the first game of the day, Russia played Portugal but I have to admit, not much really happened. Cristiano Ronaldo (who else?) headed Portugal into an early lead after a deep cross from Raphael Guerreiro found the Real Madrid man, who headed past an oncoming Igor Akinfeev. As Ronaldo wheeled away to the corner flag in celebration, it seemed like the game was going to be lively and full of goals but exactly the opposite followed.
Russia’s opening over New Zealand was as deceitful as it was dull. Russia controlled the game and comfortably beat the Kiwis. However, against the European Champions, their weaknesses were evident and their play lacked that necessary creative spark. They also seemed very one dimensional – most attacks were direct balls up to Fedor Smolov, who couldn’t hold onto the ball against the strong centre-defensive partnership of Pepe and, new Rangers signing, Bruno Alves. The game ended 1-0 and I pity anyone who watched it.
Mexico took on the mighty Kiwis in Sochi’s Fisht Stadium and New Zealand showed their intentions right from the start with 17 fouls in the first 17 minutes, proving they are very good at hacking – something that is encouraged in Russia. Tempers flared in the dugout as the Kiwis played on when a Mexico player lay on the deck, this caused the Mexican manager, Juan Carlos Osario, to hurl some nasty insults at Anthony Hudson in the opposite technical area. Osario’s team changes backfired when New Zealand took the lead through captain Chris Wood who fired the Kiwis into the lead just before half time.
Benfica striker, Raul Jimenez, levelled things up after half time with a thumping strike, on the turn, into the far, top-left corner. Mexico looked a lot sharper after the break so I presume Osario used some more insults inside their dressing room during the interval. Mexico took the lead 20 minutes from time after Aquino ran to the byline and cut it back for veteran goal scorer, Oribe Peralta to poke past the keeper. There was time to see Monty Patterson of Braintree Town as he came on for the last few minutes of the game to try and grab something for New Zealand but even he could not save New Zealand from being mathematically eliminated from competition. And it wouldn’t be a Confed Cup game without the farcical VAR, a large fight broke out between the two sides 1 minute into stoppage time and after it had all calmed down, the Gambian referee went to his VAR to determine punishments. He literally went to a screen as well as receiving information in his ear but took all of 5 minutes to book just 3 players and we didn’t know what for. It was quite something.
The locals in Moscow and Sochi didn’t seem too interested in the tournament, even if Cristiano Ronaldo was playing. Neither stadium was anywhere near full capacity and not even Vladimir Putin bothered to turn up for Russia’s game with Ronaldo’s Portugal.
Group B takes centre stage on Day Six of the Confed Cup as we see the first, and only, heavyweight match-up in the group stage in Germany vs Chile. Ok, maybe heavyweight is a bit of a stretch. It’s more like a rookie boxer against one who has never done anything significant away from home. Alexis Sanchez is tipped to start after coming on as a sub for Chile’s game against Cameroon.
Cameroon against Australia is the earlier kick-off but not even I can build that up for you but you might just want to refer to my update tomorrow instead of watching the game.