Euro 2016 champions Portugal open their Confederations Cup campaign against 2015 CONCAF Cup winners Mexico
The FIFA Confederations Cup often serves as a mini-World Championship as it sees the top sides from every continent square off in an eight-team tournament, a year prior to the FIFA World Cup.
Portugal have made their way into the competition after an impressive European Championships campaign last summer where they ended up beating France 1-0 in the final to etch the name on the continental stage.
The current Portuguese team is bolstered by a number of world-class players led by the Ballon d’Or favourite Cristiano Ronaldo. The Real Madrid star is one the back of winning the La Liga and Champions League, and will be looking to add another trophy in his illustrious cabinet.
For that, Portugal will have to qualify for the semi-finals, going through a group that will feature Mexico, who won the CONCACAF Cup a couple of years back, and despite not having the strongest of squads, will be looking to cause a few upsets in this competition.
Team News and Tactics
The Euro winners go into this competition boasting the strongest squad as defending world champions Germany will be sending a third-string side. Portugal, on the other hand, have all their star players included, and they will be looking to begin the competition on a high.
Rui Patricio is the undisputed option in goal, while the Euro 2016 winning pair of Cedric Soares and Raphael Guerreiro as full-backs. The two are flying full-backs, who are equally efficient going forward as they are performing their defensive duties.
Usually, the Borussia Dortmund man is the one playing in the final third, leaving Cedric to mop up and play as the third defender. Guerreiro is also useful in central midfield and could be used as an inverted full-back if Fernando Santos’ side is overloaded in the middle of the park.
In midfield, Santos has an embarrassment of riches to pick from, but is known to fancy fielding a double pivot with one of the players sitting deep and offering assistance to the defence, with the other operating as more of a box-to-box midfielder.
Sporting CP’s William Carvalho is likely to start as the defensive minded of the duo with Barcelona’s Andre Gomes playing in an advanced role, hoping to link the defence to the attackers.
Moving forward, captain Cristiano Ronaldo’s place in the team is guaranteed and he is expected to start on the left wing with new Manchester City signing Bernado Silva on the other side. AC Milan’s Andre Silva is likely to lead the line.
Portugal Probable XI: Patricio; Cedric, Pepe, Fonte, Guerreiro; Carvalho, Gomes; Bernardo, Gelson, Ronaldo; Silva.
Juan Carlos Osorio has done a decent job with his Mexico team in recent games, but the FA is still not confident in his managerial abilities, and are pondering as to whether he is the man to continue in the long run.
Thus, this competition could prove to be the defining one for him, and should Mexico go through to the semi-finals, it will be a huge achievement for Osario, and the team he has picked to travel to Russia.
2014’s standout goalkeeper Guillermo Ocha has been synonymous with the Mexican international team ever since, and has continued to perform at the top level for his national side. He will be his country’s first-choice option for the tournament.
There are two Reyes’ in the defence in Ricardo and Diego – with the former operating as a full-back while the latter comfortable of playing in a more central role. The duo are expected to start, and give Mexico a solid base at the back.
An old cliche states that games are often won and lost in midfield, so Osorio is expected to solidify his resolve in the middle of the park, and is likely to play two holding midfielders to nullify the attack of Portugal.
Hector Herrera and Andres Guardado are both comfortable with the ball at the feet, and their physical presence could help them in bullying their opposite numbers on the field come Sunday.
The Mexican side is blessed with pace down the flanks as Carlos Vela and Hirving Lozano are among the finest wingers the competition has on offer. Mexico are likely to exploit the flanks and approach a direct style of play with Javier Hernandez playing as a poacher.
Mexico Probable XI: Ochoa; Reyes, Moreno, Reyes, Layun; dos Santos, Herrera; Vela, Fabian, Lozano; Hernandez.
Player to watch out for
It goes without saying that if Portugal are to win the competition, Ronaldo will have to be on the top of his game. The Real Madrid star almost single-handedly guided his team to the Euro title, and all eyes will be on him in the Confederations Cup.
Portugal 2-1 Mexico
Both teams both solid attacks and are expected to find the back of the net at least once. Portugal, however, boast a stronger defence, and it may come down to that if they are to win the game.
Pepe and Fonte have been in good form domestically this past season, and will be enough to keep Javier Hernandez and co at bay, and unlikely to give them any space in and around the 18-yard-area.