Portugal are a class above Mexico and Russian Federation, and picked a near full strength line up, including Cristiano Ronaldo, Andre Silva, Bernardo Silva and Pepe.
While there is little gain in getting carried away by a 4-0 win over New Zealand, the European champions are gathering momentum and the identities of two players who made decisive impacts in steering them to the semifinals give cause for optimism.
Russian Federation failed to reach the knockout rounds of a fourth major tournament in a row, but there’s no shame in losing by one goal to European champion Portugal and North American champion Mexico.
Santos said Portugal had been wary heading into the game early on Sunday (NZT), despite New Zealand’s lowly 95th world ranking.
Nani finished off the game for Portugal with the fourth goal.
New Zealand sought to tighten things up at the back at the start of the second half, with their surrounding of Ronaldo on one instance indicative of a relative improvement.
When the world is watching, though, he gets flustered and makes mistakes.
Igor Smolnikov had Russia’s best chance to level, smashing over from close range, but the hosts could not produce a comeback and will not participate in the semi-finals, with Mexico progressing alongside Portugal from Group A. Then we had a period where we just allowed them to come into the game and ultimately it became a bit too much for us to get back into it. “You have to try to reach the goal and prevent them from scoring”. Our opponents were not the easiest to say the least.
– Portugal won their last game against a South American side, beating Argentina 1-0 in a friendly in November 2014.
The Confederation Cup has also given Manchester City fans a glimpse of their new play maker, Bernardo Silva. “I hope the players will use the experience to grow and develop”.
Ronaldo was denied three times with headers by New Zealand’s impressive goalkeeper Stefan Marinovic, who made eight saves and used his big body to block second-half shots by Andre Silva and substitute Nani.
While Portugal bagged another three points, Ronaldo was also named the ‘Man of the Match.’ He’s now won back-to-back-to-back gongs following his heroics on worldwide duty.
And Mexico went on to take the lead in even more freaky circumstances early in the second half, with Akinfeev completely misjudging a long ball and presenting Hirving Lozano with a simple headed finish.
“Without a doubt. I would recommend not only to my friends, but my non friends, people that I don’t know we might meet them and have a chat about it of course yes!“.
He will be primarily occupied, though, by the fact that his team are improving.
Chicharito scored his only goal of the tournament in the 2-2 opening draw against Portugal last week.