Portugal take on New Zealand in their final Group A match as they look to finish atop their group ahead of current leaders Mexico.
While Fernando Santos’ men are looking to finish top of the group, the All Whites have nothing to play for after losing their first two games against Russia and Mexico. However, they can still cause a huge upset by beating Portugal and giving the hosts an outside chance of qualifying.
While there is still the smallest of chances that Portugal’s draw against Mexico could come back to haunt them at the end of the 90 minutes, the European Champions are expected to cruise past the Anthony Hudson’s men, who in Captain Chris Wood’s words, are going to play to win.
New Zealand lost their first two games to Russia and Mexico 2-0 and 2-1 respectively. Portugal beat the hosts 1-0 in their last game, but an injury-time equaliser from Mexico’s Hector Moreno ensured that the points were shared between the two sides in their opening game in Kazan.
The European Champions are expected to cruise past New Zealand tonight with a dominating performance and we may very well see the biggest scoreline of the tournament in St.Petersburg. The Hard Tackle attempts to take closer look at what will be the first ever match between the 2 sides.
Team News and Tactics
Anthony Hudson’s men have nothing to play for, so he may very well decide to give some fringe players an opportunity to impress. However, the 36-year-old may want to exit with their heads held high and may field a strong side in order to try and cause an unlikely upset.
They aren’t expected to make a change from the 3-4-1-2 used against Russia and we will likely see the same team being fielded tonight. Stefan Marinovic will be in goal and Smith, Durante and Boxall will likely make up their 3-man defence.
Deklan Wynne and Kip Colvey, who will likely come in for young Dane Ingham, will make up the left and right wingbacks respectively. Clayton Lewis will likely be replaced by Ryan Thomas and alongside McGlinchey, they will form the All Whites’ central midfield pairing. In attack, Marcos Rojas will likely set up shop in a free role in behind Kostas Barbarouses who returns to the starting XI and Captain Chris Wood.
Predicted Starting XI(3-4-1-2): Marinovic; Smith, Durante, Boxall; Wynne, McGlinchey, Thomas, Colvey; Rojas; Wood, Barbarouses
Only Borussia Dortmund fullback Raphael Guerreiro is expected to miss out after picking up an injury in their last match against Russia. He will likely be replaced by the 33-year-old Benfica fullback Eliseu, and Fernando Santos has insisted there will be more changes.
In his pre-match press conference, he remained coy on Ronaldo’s participation tonight. “I don’t know if I’m going to play with Cristiano or not,” he said as per Goal. “I don’t want the opponents to know. Rotation will take place, that’s what I can tell you.”
Keeping that in mind, Eliseu could be joined by Pepe and Cedric Soares. Bruno Alves could also make way for Jose Fonte in the center of defence. Andre Gomes, William Carvalho, Adrien Silva and Bernardo Silva can be expected to retain their places in the squad.
However, Joao Moutinho could receive a call up to the starting XI and Ricardo Quaresma, who put up a superb performance against Mexico may return to the starting XI ahead of either Andre Gomes or Bernardo Silva on the wings. Besides Quaresma, Santos will also have Nani, who will be available to play as a striker, should he wish to rest their Captain.
Predicted Starting XI(4-4-2): Patricio; Eliseu, Pepe, Alves, Soares; Gomes, Carvalho, Silva, B.Silva; A.Silva, Ronaldo
- New Zealand ended a 555-minute run without scoring in the Confederations Cup when Captain Chris Wood scored against Mexico.
- 18-year-old Dane Ingham of New Zealand is the youngest player at the Confederation’s Cup.
- Cristiano Ronaldo of Portugal has not scored in only 1 game from his previous 8 games for Portugal, netting 13 goals in the remaining 7 combined.
- Ronaldo’s next goal for Portugal will be his 75th and he will equal Sandor Kocsic’s record as the second most prolific International European goalscorer.
- This will be the first ever meeting between the 2 nations.
New Zealand 0-4 Portugal
This is without a doubt one of the most one-sided games of the tournament on paper. However, games are won on the pitch and this New Zealand side have absolutely nothing to play for and the pressure to qualify and no slip up rests entirely on Fernando Santos’ men.
Despite Fernando Santos’ assurances of rotation, the gulf in quality between the 2 sides will likely still be far too big for the All Whites to overcome at the Saint Petersburg Stadium. With or without Cristiano Ronaldo, it should be comfortable victory for the European Champions.