Hosts Russia face Portugal test in Confed Cup

MOSCOW: Cristiano Ronaldo’s Portugal take on Confederation Cup hosts and Group A leaders Russia on Wednesday with the tax storm scandal clouding Ronaldo’s Real Madrid future.

Russia’s Dmitri Kombarov (left) and Roman Shishkin during training in Moscow on Tuesday.Having opened their Confed Cup campaign with a 2-0 win over New Zealand, Russia face a step up against Euro 2016 winners Portugal and their troubled superstar captain.

Despite the off-field disruption, Ronaldo picked up the Man of the Match award in Portugal’s opening 2-2 draw with Mexico on Sunday.

And Russia know the key to derailing Portugal is ensuring Ronaldo has a quiet match at Moscow’s Spartak Stadium. “The first place in group after the first game means nothing,” said Russian midfielder Alexey Miranchuk. “It only matters after three games. We saw how dangerous Portuguese counter-attacks can be against Mexico. We must be ready for them.”

The hosts will have vocal home support as their captain and goalkeeper Igor Akinfeev is set to make his 100th appearance for Russia. Portugal’s coach Fernando Santos has said he will rotate his team through the Confed Cup. After Portugal’s defensive frailties were exposed against Mexico, Santos could inject some pace in midfield by starting with Gelson Martins, Nelson Semedo and Andre Silva.

Strangely, Portugal have never won in Moscow, losing all three of their previous games there. The Soviet Union beat Portugal 5-0 in a European championships qualifying match in the Russian capital in 1983. Then in 2012 Russia won a World Cup qualifier 1-0 against Portugal and ran out winners by the same slender scoreline in a friendly in 2015.

‘NZ MUST BE BRAVE AGAINST MEXICO’

SOCHI: New Zealand coach Anthony Hudson says the All Whites must be brave against Mexico, knowing defeat on Wednesday will effectively end their Confederations Cup hopes.

Their 2-0 loss to hosts Russia in Saturday’s opening Group A match means Oceania champions New Zealand have now gone a record ten games without a win at the Confederations Cup having left the 1999, 2003 and 2009 editions empty-handed. Following Saturday’s 2-2 draw with Portugal, Mexico are upbeat and favourites to win the showdown.

“We’re determined to approach his game with the right mind-set and we definitely want to progress,” said Hudson in Tuesday’s press conference.

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