Confederations Cup Preview: Russia – Mexico

The Russian national team training at Eduard Streltsov Stadium in Moscow. Photo: Andy Shenk/RFN

The Russian national team training at Eduard Streltsov Stadium in Moscow. Photo: Andy Shenk/RFN

After losing to Portugal earlier this week, Russia travel back to Kazan, where they also played against New Zealand, with the need to beat Mexico in order to emerge from the group stages of the Confederations Cup.

A draw will be enough to take Mexico through and a point would only suffice for Russia in the unlikely event that New Zealand beat Portugal.

Last time out

The hosts are in danger of missing out on a semi-final spot after losing 1-0 to Portugal in Moscow.

Cristiano Ronaldo’s emphatic back post header in the eighth minute was enough to see off Russia, who rarely threatened the opposition goal.

Former Russia and Barcelona midfielder Igor Kornev said that Sbornaya’s second half display deserved more than defeat. “I think that it was a game of two halves,” he said. “The Portuguese were clearly the best in the first half. They controlled the game more; our team was practically not seen.

“But if you take the second half, our team improved and was brilliant. Still, we shouldn’t forget that the opposition are champions of Europe. For this [second] half I am thankful to the team.”

He added: “Going from what I saw, I don’t think that we deserved to lose.”

Igor Titov, who played midfield for Russia, also took comfort from the team’s second half display. “It was a bad result,” he said. “We needed, at the very least, not to lose. Probably a draw, from the point of view of the group table, would have been a perfect result.

“But, as I have already said, I enjoyed the second half performance; the team acted aggressively. Yes, we didn’t create clear-cut chances, however, Cherchesov’s players showed that it was possible and necessary to play against the Portuguese.

“[Georgiy] Dzhikiya could have scored at the end; a draw would have been the more logical result. In any case, the fans have reason to hope that the team will progress from the group.”

Head of the Russian Football Association Vitaliy Mutko was critical of the defending for the goal. He said: “In the game against Portugal the guys gave everything that they had. They tried to turn the game around, to equalise after a ridiculous goal in the eighth minute.

“Of course, Ronaldo is Ronaldo but he was hovering there for half an hour. Everyone could have played better, both the defence and Akinfeev. Igor himself said that he couldn’t come out from his goal.

“But, in general, I believe that we have a team, a collective, around which we can build a future. That’s the main thing.”

Pre-match talk

Russia boss Stanislav Cherchesov was optimistic ahead of the clash with Mexico. He said: “It is good when everything is in our own hands. We have a clear understanding of what needs to be done. We will calmly look at our mistakes. It is necessary to understand who is ready.

“Currently there doesn’t seem to be any difficulties on the injury front but pains often appear in a couple of days. There might be changes. We will also look at the opposition.”

Previous meetings

Saturday’s game will be the third time that Russia and Mexico have met, with the former winning both of the previous encounters.

The earliest, on 15th August 1992, was an historic one – Russia’s first football match since the breakup of the Soviet Union and they won 2-0.

The teams played again, in February 1994, with both looking ahead to that summer’s World Cup in the United States. The result was again positive for the Russians, who ran out 4-1 winners.

Prediction

Neither Russia nor Mexico have shown much to suggest that they can win the tournament. The hosts’ optimism has been dampened following an uninspiring defeat to Portugal, while Mexico had to come from behind to defeat New Zealand. The Mexicans are in the driving seat, knowing that a point will be enough to take them to the next stage. Will Russia be able to live up to the pressure of hosting next summer’s World Cup? The outcome of this fixture – a win or bust game – could be a strong indicator. Mexico to take a draw and a place in the semi-finals: 2-2

Author: John Gorrod

I spent the 2015-16 academic year studying Russian at the Tver State University. One day, I visited the stadium of third-division Volga Tver and ended up helping the fans to paint the fences around the pitch. We became firm friends and they introduced me to the wonderful world of Russian football.

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