Roman Koksarov/Associated Press
The 2017 Confederations Cup kicks off on Saturday, with hosts Russia taking on New Zealand.
The competition serves as a dress rehearsal for next year’s FIFA World Cup, and while it may lack the prestige of that tournament, there will nevertheless be some quality teams on show.
Portugal and Mexico comprise the rest of Group A with Russia and New Zealand, while Germany, Chile, Australia and Cameroon make up Group B.
The full schedule for the tournament can be found on FIFA’s official website. In the UK, ITV are providing full coverage and every match can be streamed live via ITV Player. In the USA, Fox Sports is doing the same and will provide live-streaming via Fox Sports Go.
Read on for a closer look at some of the key opening clashes at this year’s Confederations Cup:
Portugal vs. Mexico: Sunday, 18 June
European champions Portugal enter the competition as one of the teams to beat, and it will take an almighty effort to nullify their attacking power in particular.
While manager Fernando Santos’ team boast talent throughout their side, it is going forward where they truly shine.
Portugal’s front three of Cristiano Ronaldo, Andre Silva and Bernardo Silva racked up a staggering 74 goals and 32 assists between them last season.
Sportsnet’s Gary Melo noted the improvement in the side with the addition of the two Silvas alongside Ronaldo:
Gary Melo @Im_So_Legendary
And this 4-3-3 Portugal attack will be even more potent when Fernando Santos finally plays Bernardo Silva alongside Andre Silva & Ronaldo.
The Real Madrid man remains the star of the show, though, and he’s in electric form for his country, per Jan Hagen of Sport Witness:
Jan Hagen @PortuBall
Cristiano Ronaldo’s last 6 Portugal games(12 goals): Andorra: ⚽⚽⚽⚽ Faroe Islands: ⚽ Latvia: ⚽⚽ Hungary: ⚽⚽ Sweden: ⚽ Latvia: ⚽⚽ Unstoppable https://t.co/7yjq6W9SI7
Mexico represent Portugal’s strongest opponent in Group A, and El Tri can cause the Euro 2016 winners problems with their own talented players—all-time top scorer Javier Hernandez has 47 goals for his country and will be a particular threat—but the Selecao have the firepower to win their opening match.
Australia vs. Germany: Monday, 19 June
World Cup holders Germany will also have their eyes on winning the tournament, but they have taken a more experimental squad to the Confederations Cup.
Squawka News shared the lineup selected by manager Joachim Low:
Squawka News @SquawkaNews
OFFICIAL: Germany have confirmed their squad for the Confederations Cup in Russia. (Via @DFB_Team) https://t.co/kFrYYgTtPN
While many of Germany’s top stars are absent, such is the depth available to Low that they still have some outstanding talent in their squad which should—at the very least—get them through the group stage.
They enjoyed a 7-0 win over San Marino on Saturday, an expected result but one that will nevertheless serve as a confidence-booster for Die Mannschaft.
Australia, meanwhile, were thrashed 4-0 by an understrength Brazil side in their last warm-up game. The Selecao scored against them in a matter of seconds, per 9Go!:
GOAL BRAZIL! In just 13 seconds, Brazil score the first goal of the night. #AUSvBRA #9WWOS https://t.co/9VN7icBCD8
That friendly came after the Socceroos only just scraped past Saudi Arabia 3-2 in a World Cup qualifier.
As such, it’s difficult to see Australia causing the Germans too many problems here.