Russia vs New Zealand – Saturday 16:00BST/17:00 CEST – Krestovsky Stadium – Saint Petersburg, Russia
The Confederations Cup in Russia will finally kick off on Saturday when Russia host New Zealand at the Krestovsky Stadium in Saint Petersburg. As discussed on the Futbolgrad Confederations Cup Podcast this will be a must-win game for the Russian national team.
The Sbornaya were drawn into Group A together with New Zealand, Portugal and Mexico. On paper, Portugal and Mexico will be the favourites to advance from the group to reach the semi-finals. This means that if Russia wants to have a realistic chance to make progress from the group they will have to beat New Zealand decisively.
On paper Russia coached by Stanislav Cherchesov should be able to dispatch the Kiwis. Especially, as Russia’s results have started to improve—in the last two friendlies before the tournament, Russia defeated Hungary 2-0 in Budapest and drew Chile 1-1 in Moscow. Playing 3-5-2 for the most part Cherchesov has finally found a side that can translate his playing ideas onto the pitch.
Speaking in an interview with the Die Sueddeutsche Zeitung on Wednesday Cherchesov explained that the number one task going into this tournament was to make the side younger. He has certainly managed that. Gone are the Berezutsky twins and Sergei Ignashevich in the back. Troublemakers like Igor Denisov, Aleksandr Kokorin Pavel Mamaev, have also been cut. What is left is a relatively young and inexperienced squad that can now use this tournament to collect experience for the big show next summer.
New Zealand in the meantime are the biggest underdogs of the tournament. The Oceania champion is widely expected to finish last in Group A. In their final two friendlies before the tournament; the All-Whites lost 1-0 to Northern Ireland and Belarus. Despite New Zealand’s poor results going into this tournament, Russia will have to be careful, because the tournament will be over before it even begins for the Sbornaya should New Zealand upset the apple cart and get a result against Russia.
Russia vs New Zealand – Players to look out for:
Fedor Smolov #9 Russia
Fedor Smolov is Russia’s biggest star going into the tournament. The Krasnodar striker has been recently linked with moves to Bayer Leverkusen and Borussia Dortmund, and Stanislav Cherchesov once again suggested in his big interview with the Sueddeutsche Zeitung that Smolov will likely leave the Russian Football Premier League this summer. While some fear the departure of the star, many would say that a move abroad is overdue for the striker. Smolov has now won the goal scoring title two years in a row, and his wonder goal against Hungary has shown to the world that he has the talent to succeed on the big stage. For Smolov playing well at the Confederations Cup will be key as Europe’s biggest clubs will carefully follow the tournament.
Chris Wood #9 New Zealand
Chris Wood is New Zealand’s biggest asset. The striker from Leeds United managed 27 goals in 44 games in England’s Championship last season. At 195cm and 95kg Chris Wood is a force of nature, and the striker has done extremely well competing in the tough English Championship. It will be interesting to see how Russia’s relatively inexperienced defence will handle Wood, who is used to playing the physical game in England. Finally, the striker will want to use the tournament to present him on the bigger stage, because following his excellent season Wood has already played himself in the notebooks of bigger clubs in England and abroad.
Russia vs New Zealand – Match Stats
- The opening match in Saint Petersburg will be the first time the two countries play against each other.
- Russia have never before played in the Confederations Cup.
- New Zealand have 16 players who play abroad, Russia have zero.
Prediction: Russia vs New Zealand 3-0
Russia vs New Zealand – Possible Lineups
Akinfeev – Vasin, Shishkin, Kudryashov – Kombarov, Golovin, Glushakov, Smolnikov – Miranchuk, Samedov – Smolov
Coach: Stanislav Cherchesov
Marinovic – Wynne, Tzimopoulos, Durante, Boxall – Thomas, Tuiloma, Lewis Rojas – Smeltz, Wood
Coach: Anthony Hudson