As the teams taking part in the 2017 FIFA Confederations Cup in Russia have now all played their first games in the tournament, RT Sport takes a look at the main points of each match.
Russia 2-0 New Zealand
Russia defeated New Zealand in the 2017 FIFA Confederations Cup curtain-raiser in the first-ever Russian national team game held at St. Petersburg Stadium.
Stanislav Cherchesov’s men were eager to impress their expectant home crowd and also Russian President Vladimir Putin, who was in attendance alongside FIFA chief Gianni Infantino and Brazil legend Pele.
The match was preceded by an opening ceremony that featured pop star Sergey Lazarev alongside FIFA World Cup Russia 2018 mascot ‘Zabivaka’.
After the performances, Putin and Infantino addressed the crowd, where the latter showed off some Russian language skills and urged football fans to come to Russia to “feel the best football tournament ever.”
“Dorogiye druzhya (dear friends), dobro pozhalovat (welcome),” Infantino said. “Welcome to the FIFA Confederations Cup in Russia.”
“I would like to thank four Russian cities for their fantastic work (St. Petersburg, Moscow, Sochi and Kazan). Spasibo Rossiya (Thank you Russia). Come to Russia! You will feel the best football tournament ever,” he added.
An own goal from Michael Boxall after Russia’s Denis Glushakov rounded the keeper and knocked the ball against the post and a second-half strike from Fedor Smolov gave the hosts a 2-0 win that surely quelled any pre-tournament nerves.
However, given Russia’s initial struggle to convert their chances against FIFA No. 95-ranked New Zealand, along with ‘All Whites’ goalkeeper Stefan Marinovic making a string of impressive saves, ‘Sbornaya’ will need to up their game in their next match against European champions Portugal in Moscow on Wednesday.
Portugal 2-2 Mexico
The second Group A game between Gold Cup winners Mexico and European champions Portugal saw the Confederations Cup debut of the world’s best player Cristiano Ronaldo.
Ballon d’Or holder Ronaldo is Portugal’s captain, record scorer and record appearance maker and will be looking to add more silverware to an already a glittering season in which he won the UEFA Champions League.
The game began well for the Iberian nation, former barcelona player Ricardo Quaresma opening the scoring on 34 minutes.
Javier ‘Chicharito’ Hernandez leveled the score for ‘El Tri’ eight minutes later, becoming the only player at the tournament to have scored in a previous edition of the competition, having scored three goals in 2013.
The second half saw late drama when cedric seemed to have won it for Portugal in the 86th minute, but then hector Moreno popped up to head home in injury time to again pull the Mexicans level and save a vital point in perhaps the most challenging game for his team.
Mexico were cheered on by their ever-faithful Pancho Villa’s Army supporters group, who took time out to visit the Kazan Kremlin donning traditional Mexican dress and national team jerseys.
Moscow is the next destination for Ronaldo and co, where they will take on hosts Russia in an eagerly anticipated game at Spartak Stadium. Mexico next face New Zealand at Fisht Stadium in Sochi the same day.
Chile 2-0 Cameroon
South American champions Chile and Africa Cup of Nations holders Cameroon opened the Group B fixtures at Spartak Stadium in the first 2017 FIFA Confederations Cup game held in Moscow.
Alexis Sanchez, a 58th minute replacement for Edson Puch, proved the difference on the night, playing a crucial part in both late goals, first from first Arturo Vidal and then Eduardo Vargas, in a seesaw game that included two disallowed goals for each side.
However, the Arsenal winger’s tournament could be in jeopardy as news has since circulated that he suffered a badly swollen ankle in Sunday night’s game.
Chile supporters, draped in national flags, and perhaps the most eclectic, colorful selection of fans seen at the tournament so far, filled the home of current Russian Premier League (RPL) champions Spartak Moscow for the Sunday night game.
Chile’s fans, a reported 8,000 of whom have made the journey from South America for the tournament, zealously cheered on every mention of their heroes, from the national anthem to the game’s final moments, which brought probably the game’s most illuminating period.
Some fans of Cameroon’s ‘Indomitable Lions’ even took to wearing lion masks to show their support.
In the early stages of the game, Cameroon were forced to soak up pressure as an attacking three of Vargas, Fuenzalida and Puch showed exactly why ‘La Roja’ (The Red One) hold a current No. 4 FIFA ranking.
Cameroon stopper Fabrice Ondoa showed no lack of courage to almost single-handedly keep his side in the game in the first quarter of an hour. Then, on 17 minutes came the game’s first talking point.
Against the run of play, Cameroon had the ball in the net when Michael Ngadeu headed home from a free-kick, but the goal was immediately ruled out as Vincent Aboubakar was adjudged to have felled Arturo Vidal off the ball.
Although seemingly a legitimate call, the decision was met with protests and bewilderment from the Cameroon players.
Soon after it was Chile’s turn to feel aggrieved when Arturo Vidal’s clever through pass set free Eduardo Vargas, who chipped coolly over Ondoa – seemingly giving Chile the lead.
But as the Chile players celebrated, Slovenian referee Damir Skomina signalled to consult the Video Assistance Referee (VAR), the goal was disallowed due to Vargas being adjudged to be offside, although the margin seemed slim on the replay.
The second half provided little action until the introduction of Sanchez, his cross finding the immense aerial presence of Vidal for the game’s first legitimate goal in the 81st minute.
Then, just as it looked as though Chile were closing out the game for a narrow win, Sanchez found himself clear through on goal. After dancing round two defenders and an outstretched Ondoa, his blocked shot was turned in by Vargas to make it 2-0.
As the Chile players once more wheeled away to celebrate, Skomina again gestured to review the moment, this time Sanchez allegedly in an offside position when played through.
But this time, after a few moments of deliberation, Skomina retrospectively allowed the goal to stand, based on the VAR decision that Sanchez was not in offside position.
Questions will certainly be raised about the VAR system, which FIFA president Gianni Infantino announced would be used in the Russia 2018 World Cup and was first introduced in a FIFA competition at the Club World Cup in Japan in December 2016.
Vidal was named man of the match, the Bayern Munich man was instrumental in midfield and will be a pivotal player for Chile as the tournament progresses, especially given the uncertainty over Sanchez’s future participation.
Cameroon play Australia next on Thursday in St. Petersburg, with Chile facing world champions Germany later that day in Kazan.
Germany 3-2 Australia
World champions Germany and Asian Cup winners Australia rounded off the first stage of action in Sochi on Monday, producing an exciting five-goal game.
Germany took the lead early on through Lars Stindl – his first goal for Die Mannschaft – before Socceroos striker Tommy Rogic drew his team level on 41 minutes.
There were more goals to come though, as German skipper Julian Draxler fired in a penalty on 44 minutes, and Leon Goretzka added to the German lead almost immediately after the restart.
Tomi Juric pulled his team back into the game with his finish on 56 minutes, but Germany held on comfortably for a 3-2 win.
Joachim Low’s youthful squad – the youngest at the tournament – appeared to relish the chance to play themselves into contention ahead of next year’s World Cup, with mainstays of the team Mesut Ozil, Tomi Kroos, Thomas Muller and goalkeeper Manuel Neuer all at home, either rested or injured. Goretzka in particular impressed for the World Champions, putting in a strong performance.
Germany move on to face a stern test against Chile in Kazan on Thursday, while Australia meet Cameroon in St. Petersburg, with both sides looking for their first points of this year’s tournament.