Confederations Cup: Russia vs Portugal

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Portugal beat Russia 1-0 this morning and Joshua Thomas brings you the lowdown on the tight tussle that was.

What happened 

The reigning European champions were looking to humble their Russian hosts and dominated proceedings from the outset.

A one-sided first eight minutes from Portugal ended in all too predictable circumstances with Cristiano Ronaldo picked out at the back post by a pin-point Raphael Guerreiro cross and heading his side in front with the simplest of finishes.

With a trademark Ronaldo celebration now in the bank, Portugal eased up a little bit and allowed Russia into the game.

In what would become a mainly midfield affair however, Russia would struggle to penetrate a stubborn, if at times, shaky Portugese defence. Meanwhile, Portugal found themselves squandering a number of chances to put the game to bed.

A much tighter second half then saw Ronaldo miss two very convertible chances and Igor Akinfeev pull off a remarkable save as Portugal struggled to seal a vital three points.

Sensing a late equaliser, a resolute Russia pushed hard in the final half hour with an injury-time header that soared over the crossbar the closest they came to sneaking a draw with an average Portugal side riding their luck to claim a 1-0 win.

Talking points 

They may have the world’s best attacker right now in Ronaldo, but Portugal seem to be missing a little something up front. While Russia weren’t blown off the park, Portugal should have had the game wrapped up long before the full time whistle but couldn’t make the most of a number of chances. With Ronaldo not at his sharpest no-one else really stood up for the Portugese in attack.

Credit where it’s due though for Russia, who didn’t really put a foot wrong, but just failed to pack a sufficient punch to counter that of Portugal’s. Their main striker Fedor Smolov had a decisively off night while Akinfeev had a stellar night in goals to keep his side in it with a number of fine saves. 

What it means

The win means Portugal are pretty much through to the knockout stages while Russia’s progression will hinge on their final game against Mexico.

Needs work 

Both sides need a bit more firepower in attack with two very efficient midfields let down by less than effective strikers. 

While Portugal did hold on to their 1-0 lead and claim a clean sheet, they looked particularly shaky late on for a side that claimed the European title just 12 months prior. They’ll need to find some composure if they hope to see off quality opposition in the knockout stages. 

What’s next 

Portugal will likely ease their way into the semi-finals with a final group game against New Zealand on Sunday morning (AEST) while Russia will battle it out with Mexico in pursuit of a knockout birth the same day.

Goal of the day 

Only one to pick from and though it was simple, it was also very sweet. Guerreiro with a quality cross to the back post which found an somehow unmarked Ronaldo whose graceful header left Akinfeev with no chance. 

Miss of the day:

In a game of few chances for Russia, striker Fedor Smolov couldn’t capitalise just before halftime when he was found inside the box. The lively number nine snapped at the chance with a first-time effort that flew metres wide of goal. After being on the back foot for much of the first 45 minutes, a goal or even shot on target could have given Russia a real boost heading into the break.

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Joshua Thomas
A football fanatic and journalism student who won't leave you wondering about any Wanderers news this season as I cover all things Red and Black for The Football Sack.

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