Portugal v Mexico – Sunday 13:00BST/14:00CEST/15:00MSK – Spartak Stadium, Moscow.
Portugal take on Mexico in the game that no-one wants to play. Both the defeated semi-finalists must play one final match, the game to see just who finishes third at the FIFA Confederations Cup. With the validity of the third-place playoff a constant debate at the World Cup, it is a matter of surprise that FIFA wants to prolong player absences from short holidays before they return to their respective club sides. The new season is only weeks away.
Fernando Santos’s side come into this fixture via a penalty shoot-out defeat against Chile. In an overall dire match, the European Champions lost thanks to three woeful penalties—Chilean goalkeeper Claudio Bravo with three of the easiest saves he’s likely to make in 2017. Portugal won their final group stage game convincingly, dispatching New Zealand with ease—0:4. Their lack of desire against Chile in the semi-final will have come as a disappointment to many back home. Ronaldo looked disinterested, his demeanour spread like wildfire and it wasn’t long before Portugal looked happier neutralising the Chilean threat than creating chances of their own. UEFA’s confederation champions had come in for criticism during the Euro 2016 tournament in France – A semi-final victory against surprise package, Wales, was the only highlight in an unconvincing set of fixtures that included many drab draws. It remains to be seen just how seriously this game will be taken, leading man Ronaldo has left to concentrate on the birth of his twins. A Portuguese side without him, and no real prize to play for, could just go with the motions for 90 minutes.
Mexico will look to forget their semi-final appearance against world champions, Germany, quickly. Leaving Sochi with a 4:1 lesson in attacking football, the CONCACAF champions were lucky they didn’t stare down the barrel of a score line double the one they received. Star man Chicharito looked tired—the introduction of fellow Mexican-Bundesliga star, Marco Fabian, should have happened earlier. The Eintracht Frankfurt man fired late-late hope for Mexico. A wonderfully taken free kick burst the net on 89 minutes. Unfortunately for the Central Americans, Germany went straight down the other end and capped a strong display with their fourth goal. Mexico are still the only club left in the competition that have won the Confederations Cup, this mantra will be safe until the main event takes place after the completion of this third-place playoff. It is expected that the Mexicans will take this game more seriously than their opponents, viewing a third-place finish in a strong competition line up as a worthy end. Marco Fabián should have done enough to cement a starting place line-up. If the 27-year-old shows as much determination in this game, as he did during his semi-final introduction, he may be the difference in the fixture that neither side will be relishing.
Portugal v Mexico – Players to look out for:
Nani #17 – Portugal
The 30-year-old Valencia attacker missed the all-important third penalty in Thursday’s semi-final against Chile. A weak penalty more akin to a pass back than a shot, was not an accurate reflection of his overall ability. Featuring 26 times for Valencia this season his return was five goals and eight assists – not too bad for a forward deployed on the left wing throughout most of 2016/17. Nani’s greatest threat comes from his short intricate passing ability — when mixed with his dribbling talent he will give the Mexican’s a presence to worry about. With Ronaldo absent, it may fall to Nani to take all direct free kicks in a dangerous area – Something he is able to do to good effect.
Marco Fabián #10 – Mexico
In a disappointing Mexican performance against Germany, Fabián was the only positive. Scoring an excellent goal late on it should have given El Tri something to smile about – however, with Werner scoring a fourth for the Germans 60 seconds later this wasn’t to be. Scoring nine times in 34 appearances for the national side Fabián has shown that for an attacking midfielder, he knows where the net is. Showing his strength from set pieces already in this tournament it is his hard-working ethic which will bring a difference to the El Tri centre. Comfortable in any of the midfield central and right sided roles it is a wonder why he hasn’t featured more for Juan Carlos Osorio. With Portugal missing key midfield players, this could give Fabián the chance to make the area his own.
Portugal v Mexico – Match Stats
- Mexico have failed to beat Portugal in four previous attempts (two defeats and two draws)
- Two weeks ago, Portugal and Mexico played out a 2-2 draw in Kazan in their opening match of the competition.
- Portugal will be without Cristiano Ronaldo and Raphael Guerreiro, both players have been released from the squad for this playoff.
- In the previous four matches between these two sides, there has been eight goals in total.
- Having never faced each other before as coaches, Santos and Osorio meet again for the second time in two weeks.
Prediction: Portugal v Mexico – 0:2
Sa; Eliseu, Neto, Fonte, Semedo; Martins, Danilo, Silva; Pizzi, Nani, Silva
Coach: Fernando Santos
Cota; Damm, Araujo, Alanis, Reyes; Fabian, Marquez, Guardado; Vela, Peralta, Lozano
Coach: Juan Carlos Osorio
Chris Williams is a freelance European football journalist. Covering the Bundesliga, Premier League and both of UEFA’s European club competitions — he can be found somewhere between the Kop and Yellow Wall. Published in both local and international publications, such as the Liverpool Echo and Sport Bild, he also contributes to television and radio across the United Kingdom. A member of the UK’s Sports Journalist Association and the International Sports Press Association (AIPS) he lives and breathes football. Follow Chris Williams on Twitter @Chris78Williams