FIFA Confederations Cup: Hosts Russia Kick off Against New Zealand
By Peter Phillips
The 2017 Confederations Cup begins on June 17, and host nation Russia will like nothing better than to start the tournament with a win in front of their home crowd. The tournament is also expected to be a preview of what to expect next summer when Russia hosts the FIFA World Cup.
It’s the first time these two squads meet, so it’ll be interesting to see how they stack up in an international competition.
Russia Team Analysis
As hosts, Russia automatically qualified for the tournament but will have their work cut out for them in group play with teams like Mexico and Portugal in the same group. Going up against a New Zealand side that isn’t considered as dangerous as the other two teams in their group, Russia cannot afford a loss or draw in this game if they want to advance past the group stage.
The Russian team and their fans can look forward with optimism, as their team improved its performance heading into the tournament. Russia defeated a Hungary team in Budapest 2-0, and played to a 1-1 draw with Chile in the friendlies, setting a decent background to this Confederations Cup.
Russian coach Stanislav Cherchesov told reporters that his main objective heading into the tournament is to make his squad younger, which is something he has been gradually doing since taking over the job. Since becoming the coach for the Russian national team, Cherchesov has gotten rid of players like Igor Denisov, Sergei Ignashevich, and the Berezutsky twins.
New Zealand Team Analysis
The Kiwis come into the tournament with low expectations from fans who believe the team will finish last in Group A. On paper, the New Zealand team is probably the least talented team in the group, but lacking the pressure that teams like Russia and Portugal must endure could prove an advantage for the Kiwis and help them pull off a surprise or two.
Going into the tournament, New Zealand lost friendlies to Northern Ireland and Belarus, who aren’t exactly the toughest competition. However, this is the same team that figured out a way to win the Oceania championship and can’t be entirely ruled out.
New Zealand will be hoping striker Chris Wood remains in form after a great campaign in the English Championship League in which he scored 27 goals for Leeds United.
If New Zealand can either defeat Russia or finish the match in a draw, they will have a chance to advance to the next round, which is something all the players will certainly have in the back of their minds. Russia facing lots of pressure to win might also play into New Zealand’s plate as the extra burden might make the Russians tighten up instead of playing their game.
The Russians look like the stronger side with players like Fedor Smolov leading the attack. However, since this is the first meeting between the two sides, anything is possible. The fact that this is Russia’s first appearance in the tournament is also an advantage for New Zealand, as nerves may end up playing a part in Cherchesov’s team.
At the end of the day, this match is most likely going to end in a draw.
Make sure to check your local TV Guide so you don’t miss any of the Confederations Cup early matches. Russia vs. New Zealand will play out by 11 am ET.
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