June 17th saw the first group stage match for this year’s Confederations Cup played. It was a Group A match between Russia–the tournament’s host–, and New Zealand.
The clear favorite for this match was Russia. After all, in New Zealand’s last 3 Confederations Cups they have had one draw and eight losses. This isn’t a very promising figure. On top of that, Russia according to Fifa’s rankings is the 63rd best national team in the world. New Zealand is at the spot of 95th, which means these two teams are not exactly even competition. Finally, it was being played in Saint Petersburg, Russia–so Russia also had home-field advantage–.
New Zealand got the ball to begin the first half. It only took till the 2nd minute for a mistake to almost give Russia an early lead. Near the end of the 6th minute Russia got a corner. After being cedd in a Russian player got his head to it sending the ball past the goalie, and into the post. The play wasn’t over yet as the ball’s tradjectory was sending it across the line, but Michael McGlinchey–New Zealand midfielder– was able to clear the ball off the line. By the end of the 8th minute Russia ha drawn out the keeper, and put a shot past him, however once again it was cleared off the line–this time by Tommy Smith, a New Zealand defender–. The 13th minute saw Russia almost receive a penalty after it seemed that the goalkeeper for New Zealand had tripped their player. The Referee smartly didn’t blow the whistle, and we later see thru replay that this was the right option. By the 31st minute the goal-less deadlock was broken. Russian midfielder, Denis Glushakov, chipped the ball over the keeper. Following this he, along with two New Zealand players rushed to get it. Among the chaos of their slides at the goal-line the ball was in the back of the net. After replay the goal was accredited to New Zealand defender, Michael Boxall. Other then a few other close calls when it came to scoring the first half was didn’t have any other key events.
Russia kicked it off to begin the second half. It only took til the 48th minute for Russia to nearly score again. They would of been successful but Stefan Marinovic–New Zealand’s goalkeeper–made a great double save. The 52nd minute would of seen Russia score again, but after a save by Stefan put the ball in tap in territory Ryan Thomas–one of New Zealand’s midfielders–made an amazing save to hit the ball out. The 68th minute saw Russia pass the ball through the box. After a New Zealand player missed his clearance, the ball went to Fedor Smolov–Russian Forward–giving him an easy tap in. That was the final goal of the match. The 90th minute came, and the match was over.
Being in a group that consists Mexico, and Portugal meant that Russia had to win this game. With 3 points, and a goal difference of 2 Russia are looking strong. While I do expect Portugal and Mexico will finish ahead of Russia, you never know. Russia is capable of making it out of this group–though it won’t be easy–, and with home-field advantage through-out this tournament I wouldn’t be too surprised if they upset Portugal, and/or Mexico. We suspect that both Mexico, and Portugal will also beat New Zealand. This would mean that for their previous four Confederation Cups New Zealand would have one tie, and eleven losses.
Following the match the player voted Budweiser Man of the Match by the fans was Fedor Smolov–the Russian player who scored their second goal–. As he was the only player to score a goal for his side this decision makes a lot of sense.
The Confederations Cup has only begun. We will be covering all the other matches, so if you are interested in what happens for each match but can’t watch them live, then we have got you covered. Big matches will be covered live with play-by-play–our play-by-play focuses on key moments, though a lot is covered–.
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