Portugal vs Mexico – Sunday 18 June 16:00 BST/17:00 CEST Kazan Arena – Kazan, Russia
If there’s anything Cristiano Ronaldo loves, it’s a global stage on which to strut his stuff; while the Confederations Cup may not carry the weight of the European Championships, World Cup of Champions League, it will still throw the goalscoring machine and Portugal’s all-time top goalscorer up against some of the best players in the world. Mexico represents his team’s biggest challenge in the group stage, and a positive result in this opening game for the European Champions will all but seal their passage to the knockouts.
Portugal have brought a very senior squad, with the defence, in particular, an area of concern – four defenders are 33 years old or older, with the remaining squad members in that department alarmingly short on international experience. Fernando Santos is known for his relatively conservative approach, both in tactics and team selection, so the likely Achilles heel of his side will be the pace (or lack thereof) of his backline.
One curiosity of this tournament is the vastly differing approaches each head coach is taking. Joachim Löw, for example, is taking an entirely experimental Germany squad with nobody aged 30 or over, but Portugal have set their intentions clear by bringing their senior side; they are here to win. They will achieve this by utilising their remarkable array of attacking talent – AC Milan’s new €38 million signing André Silva is in pole position to start alongside 139-cap Cristiano Ronaldo, with the playmaking responsibilities falling to Monaco’s João Moutinho. Manchester City’s new man Bernardo Silva is an electric option from the bench.
Mexico arrive with the most experienced squad of all, boasting an impressive 1132 international caps across the 23-man squad. Juan Carlos Osorio has proven to be an unpredictable selector for El Tri, but his usual framework begins from a 4-3-3 using former Arsenal forward Carlos Vela as the ‘x factor’ in the attack. It is acknowledged that Osorio is prioritising the Confederations Cup over the CONCACAF Gold Cup late this summer, and like Fernando Santos with Portugal, the makeup of the squad reflects this serious approach.
Rafael Márquez and Andrés Guardado provide the international know-how with a whopping 275 caps between them, but the real danger lies further forward. All-time top goalscorer Javier Hernández, better known as Chicharito, is guaranteed to start with the in-form Vela alongside him. 21-year-old Pachuca winger Hirving Lozano – widely tipped to make his big move to Europe this summer – offers electrifying pace out wide, with the likes of 23-goal Oribe Peralta and 96-cap Giovani Dos Santos available from the bench to stretch the opposition later in the game.
Portugal vs Mexico – Players to Look Out For
Cristiano Ronaldo – #7 Portugal
Who else? His country’s captain for nine years, the record appearance holder and goalscorer, and proud owner of a brand new pair of custom-made Nike boots and even a new hairstyle – if ever here was a big-game player it is Ronaldo. Even at 32 years of age he is in prime physical condition and has enjoyed his most successful year having won the Champions League, La Liga and the European Championships. Mexico’s defence will have the unenviable task of tracking his movement as he hunts his prey.
Carlos Vela – #11 Mexico
The diminutive forward has passed through the lowest point of his career to re-emerge as his country’s most complete forward. For around three years he even declared that he just wasn’t interested representing Mexico, but his reintegration is complete as his majestic strike against the US in the Azteca last weekend demonstrated. Hernández is the primary source of goals, but expect Vela to be heavily involved in the most dangerous attacks.
Portugal vs Mexico – Match Stats
- These two have only ever met twice, both on neutral ground, with Portugal emerging victorious on both occasions
- This will be Portugal’s debut in the competition
- In contrast, Mexico are making their record sixth appearance (in its current format) – twice more than anyone else in this year’s edition
Prediction: Portugal 2-1 Mexico
Portugal vs Mexico – Possible Lineups
Rui Patrício – Soares, Fonte, Pepe, Guerreiro – Carvalho – Moutinho, Gomes, Nani – Ronaldo, André Silva
Manager: Fernando Santos
Ochoa – Salcedo, Márquez, Moreno, Layún – Guardado, Herrera, Fabián – Vela, Hernández, Lozano
Manager: Juan Carlos Osorio