Russia vs. New Zealand will kick off the 2017 Confederations Cup on Saturday, June 17, at the Krestovsky Stadium in St. Petersburg. Russia is making their debut in the Confederations Cup while New Zealand is in their fourth tournament, but they have never managed to get a single victory. The Russians are the favorites to win this match and take control of Group A.
The two countries are joined by European champions Portugal and 2015 CONCACAF Cup winners Mexico in Group A. Russia got in because they are the hosts while New Zealand are the reigning OFC Nations Cup holders. On the other hand, Group B is composed of 2014 World Cup champions Germany, 2015 AFC Cup champions Australia, 2015 Copa America winners Chile, and Cameroon, the 2017 Africa Cup Nations champions.
Russia has the advantage over New Zealand in all aspect of the game from players, coaching, and the home field. Fans are going to be loud in the first game of the 2017 Confederations Cup as Russia is led by their new head coach Stanislav Cherchesov and team captain Igor Akinfeev. It is despite the notable absences of players such as Artem Dzyuba, Alan Dzagoev, and Roman Neustadter.
However, Russia still has a lot of firepower including CSKA Moscow’s Akinfeev, who is still one of the top goalkeepers in the world today, and Krasnodar forward Fedor Smolov. Russia is also in good form, losing just one in their last five matches. They lost to Ivory Coast on March 25 but they managed to pull off a draw against powerhouses Belgium and Chile.
According to Igor Borunov of the FIFA website, Russia needs to put the pressure on New Zealand early on the game by scoring a goal. It will help dictate the tempo of the game in their favor and even help them gain the confidence to win the 2017 Confederations Cup. An early goal can also help ease the pressure of playing in front of the hometown fans.
“Russia go into the tournament opener as favorites but the question is: can the hosts, who have some young players both in defense and in attack, show their best under psychological pressure? Forward Fedor Smolov will try to terrorize the New Zealand defense from the opening whistle, with an early goal sure to calm any nerves for the home team.”
On the other hand, New Zealand head coach Anthony Hudson is not worried about their status as the underdogs heading into the opening match against Russia. Hudson told the New Zealand Herald in an interview that Russia is under more pressure because they are the host and the All Whites have nothing to lose since they have never won a game in the Confederations Cup.
“I’d much rather be in our position than Russia’s. We should have no fear going into these games. That’s how it is. We are looking forward to it, we are not panicking, we are not worried. If you look at Russia, I actually believe that the prospect for them is even more intimidating. They can’t possibly lose to a team like New Zealand.”
New Zealand is expected to deploy a 3-4-1-2 tactic with Leeds United star striker Chris Wood and Melbourne Victory’s Marco Rojas up front. The midfield will be headed by PEC Zwolle’s Ryan Thomas while the defense is going to be led by veteran centre back Andrew Durante of the Wellington Phoenix. SpVgg Unterhaching’s Stefan Marinovic is the man in between the sticks for the All Whites.
Russia, on the other hand, will use a 3-5-2 formation with Georgy Dzhikya, Viktor Vasin, and Fedor Kudryashov as the back three while the midfield is composed of Aleksandr Samedov, Denis Glushakov, Aleksandr Erokhin, Dmitry Kombarov, and Alexey Miranchuk. Finally, Russia’s attack is going to be headed by Fedor Smolov and Aleksandr Golovin.
Fans who want to watch Russia vs. New Zealand can catch the game on Saturday, June 17. It will be televised live on ITV1 in the United Kingdom and FOX Sports 1 in the United States. Kickoff time is at 4 p.m. British Standard Time and 11 a.m. Eastern Time. Russia vs. New Zealand can also be watched via live stream on ITV Hub, FOX Sports GO, and fuboTV.
[Featured Image by Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images]