Confederations Cup Preview: Russia – Portugal

Spartak Stadium in Moscow. Photo: Открытие Арена

Spartak Stadium in Moscow. Photo: Открытие Арена

Russia will look to build on their 2-0 opening-day win over New Zealand when they play European champions Portugal in Moscow.

The match will be played at the Spartak Stadium in Moscow, usually known as Otkritie Arena, and the hosts go into the game with confidence against a Portuguese side that drew 2-2 with Mexico on Sunday.

Last time out

In St. Petersburg, Russia’s Confederations Cup campaign got off to the perfect start thanks to a Denis Glushakov-forced own goal and a Fedor Smolov strike.

Former Russia captain Aleksey Smertin felt that the hosts grew into the game. He said: “It was important to start the tournament with a win. And it was noticeable that the team began to play more freely as soon as they scored the second goal.

“As the first minutes showed, it is necessary to settle as they were nervous playing at home. Meanwhile, at the World Cup, the pressure and excitement will be even higher.”

Goalscorer Smolov believed that the team had managed to excite the fans. “The most important thing is that we picked up three points and won in the first game,” he said. “We pleased the fans now only with the result but also with our beautiful, effective performance. The first step is done. I hope that the fans are happy.”

Forward Dmitry Poloz said that the team is improving with each game. “When Cherchesov arrived, the squad was a little different,” he said. “Now, with every game, everyone is understanding a bit better what he is demanding from us. When we are playing we feel more comfortable than before.”

Pre-match talk

Former Russian midfielder Rolan Gusev predicted a win for the host nation. “Our team should win,” he said. “You need to consider that all the players of the European champions perform for the top clubs and they will be a bit tired; this can’t be avoided after a long season.”

He added: “There is still the question about whether the Portuguese will be at their best or will they be careless. How much they really need the Confederations Cup is still unclear. In the first game with Mexico they showed their power but, all the same, our team in front of a full house should win, although on paper we aren’t favourites.

“I am going for our team to win 2:1 and Ronaldo will score a goal.”

Russia manager Stanislav Cherchesov was optimistic but admitted that his side will need to be at their best to win. “A match with the reigning European champions awaits us,” he said, “and in their squad, are many highly skilful players.

“Everyone understands that it won’t be easy but I hope that the full stadium that will support us will give us additional emotion and strength. I am sure that, with the help of the fans, we will be able to achieve the necessary result.”

Past meetings

In November 2015, Russia defeated Portugal 1-0 in a friendly in Krasnodar, with Roman Shirokov popping up with the decisive goal.

When it comes to competitive games, the Portuguese have the much superior record. In the 2014 World Cup qualifying campaign, Russia won 1-0 at home through Aleksandr Kerzhakov’s goal, while Portugal took the three points by the same scoreline in Lisbon when Helder Postiga netted.

The two teams were in the same qualifying group for the 2006 World Cup and, while Russia managed to secure a 0-0 draw in Moscow, they were battered 7-1 in Portugal. A certain Cristiano Ronaldo scored twice that day and Andrey Arshavin scored Russia’s consolation.

Today’s Confederations Cup fixture will be the first time that the sides have met in tournament football since Euro 2004, of which Portugal were hosts. Having lost the opening group stage game to Spain, Russia had to at least draw with Portugal to avoid leaving the competition at the earliest stage. Maniche fired the Portuguese ahead before Russia goalkeeper Sergey Ovchinnikov saw red on the stroke of half time. Rui Costa secured a 2-0 win in the dying minutes of the game.

Prediction

While Portugal have the better team and a world class star in the shape of Cristiano Ronaldo, Russia have something to prove in front of their own fans. The win against New Zealand will have settled nerves in the Russian camp and, with Fedor Smolov already off the mark, they will face Portugal with the belief that a positive result is possible. Much will depend on Ronaldo but, cheered on by a passionate home support, Russia can take a point – 1:1

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.

Comments

  1. Whats playing 11 in todays match against portugal

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