Group A: Expectant hosts meet tournament regulars
A perfect blend of experience and hope meets in Group A of the FIFA Confederations Cup Russia 2017, as tournament debutants Russia and Portugal will look to progress to the semi-finals against experienced sides Mexico and New Zealand on the global stage. Portugal and Mexico will be viewed as the favourites, however, due to their superiority in the FIFA/Coca-Cola World Ranking, while there will be lots of hope from fans of hosts Russia to progress.
Teams ** **Russia New Zealand Portugal Mexico
The story** **Mexico and New Zealand will renew their rivalry, having played each other in the CONCACAF/Oceania two-legged play-off for the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil™. That time around, Mexico defeated their Oceania opponents 9-3 over two legs (first leg: 5-1, second leg: 4-2). New Zealand and head coach Anthony Hudson have been developing and will look to write a more positive chapter in the two countries' history. New Zealand recently drew 1-1 with Mexico's regional rivals USA in an international friendly, perhaps a sign of the difficult task facing Juan Carlos Osorio's charges.
Must-watch match** *Russia-Portugal, 21 June, Moscow** *Hosts Russia will look forward with great anticipation to facing European champions Portugal in Moscow at the Spartak Stadium. Portugal's triumph at UEFA EURO 2016 was one that showcased their defensive prowess, while players like Cristiano Ronaldo, Nani and Eder found the goals they needed in the end to bring the country its first major international trophy. Russia failed to progress from their group in that tournament, however, so new head coach Stanislav Cherchesov will have the difficult task of getting the better of Fernando Santos and Portugal, but it will be a challenge the country will relish.
**Did you know?**** **New Zealand forward Chris Wood is only ten goals away from becoming his nation's all-time leading goalscorer and the Leeds United striker is only 24 years old.
The All Whites have participated in the Confederations Cup on three occasions, however they failed to progress past the group stage each time (1999, 2003, 2009).
Every match in Group A at the FIFA Confederations Cup Russia 2017 will be a tournament first.
The stat** 1** - Mexico are the only team from North and Central America to have claimed the Confederations Cup title. Mexico triumphed on home soil in the 1999 tournament, upsetting Brazil 4-3 in a thrilling final in front of 110,000 fans at the Estadio Azteca, thanks to a Cuauhtemoc Blanco winner.