Portugal, Mexico meet early

  • confederations cup
- Associated Press, KAZAN

Jun 18, 2017-

Two of the top contenders for the Confederations Cup title are meeting early in the tournament, with Portugal and Mexico making their Group ‘A’ debut in Kazan on Sunday.

It will be European champion Portugal, with Cristiano Ronaldo in top form, taking on Gold Cup winner Mexico in a game that is likely to decide the group winner. Ronaldo was making the headlines on Friday because of a report that said he wants to leave Real Madrid and Spain following allegations that he defrauded the country’s tax authorities.

The Portuguese sports daily A Bola published a front-page story on Friday saying that Ronaldo was upset 

with the accusations made against him and that his 

decision was “irreversible.” “It’s a high-profile match,” Mexico forward Hirving Lozano said. “It’s good that we get to play it right now, in our first game. Both teams have great players, it will be a tough match.”

Germany are the top-ranked team in the eight-nation Confederations Cup, at No 3, but they came to Russia with a second-string squad that has only three players from the team that won the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. Chile are ranked fourth, but lack the same tradition as Portugal and Mexico and have struggled in South American qualifying. The Confederations Cup is the main warm-up event for the 2018 World Cup. It is played by the continental champions plus the host nation and the World Cup winner.

Ronaldo was peaking when he ended his season with Real Madrid, and now is looking to continue his good form with the national team in Russia. “Ronaldo is motivated,” young Portugal forward Andre Silva said. “He is taking this competition very seriously and is fully focused on training and on the match against Mexico.”

Ronaldo has scored 18 goals in his last 11 matches, including two in Portugal’s 3-0 win at Latvia in a European World Cup qualifier last week, the team’s last match before the Confederations Cup opener against Mexico. Two weeks ago, he had also scored twice in the Champions League final to lead Real to their second consecutive title in the European club competition. Ronaldo has scored 11 goals in five games with Portugal this season. A good performance at the Confederations Cup will virtually secure him a fifth world player of the year award, equaling Lionel Messi.

Portugal have won six of their last seven games, with the only setback coming in a 3-2 loss against Sweden in a friendly in March. With a team well balanced by coach Fernando Santos, Portugal outscored opponents 28-4 during that streak, with five clean sheets. Mexico have won five of their last six matches, with a 2-1 home loss to Croatia in a friendly in May.

Portugal are making their debut in the Confederations Cup, while Mexico are playing in the intercontinental competition for the seventh time. The Mexicans won the title in 1999. Portugal won 2-1 the only time they faced Mexico in an official match, in the group stage of the 2006 World Cup in Germany. The teams drew 0-0 in a friendly in 1969, and in 2014 Portugal won 1-0 in another exhibition match.

Mexico’s squad has three players who have close connections to Portugal. Defender Miguel Layun and midfielder Hector Herrera play for FC Porto, while forward Raul Jimenez plays for Benfica. Portugal doesn’t have any player on their squad playing for Mexican clubs. Ten of their players are with Portuguese teams.

Published: 18-06-2017 09:01

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