Portugal with Cristiano and another three favourites for upcoming Confederations Cup

Russia is not a favourite here

Probably the latest Confederations Cup in history kicks off in less than 10 days. The national squads announced their teams. So it is time to guess who will take the long-awaited cup from Saint Petersburg. Realnoe Vremya's sports staff is finding out who is going to go to Russia and goals of the hot favourites for the upcoming 2017 Confederations Cup.

We wait nothing from Russia

Despite praising and frankly populist statements from officials of the Russian Football Union and the Ministry of Sport that we will ''tear all apart'', the Russian national team in its current state is, unfortunately, not among the favourites for the Confederations Cup taking place at home.

With acting coach Stanislav Cherchesov, the more matches the team plays, the less it becomes clear what a team it is, what football it plays and what a skeleton it has. This is why it would be rash to wait for the Russian team to have its own playing scheme allowing to defeat Mexico or Portugal. Stanislav Cherchesov is obviously going to do experiments and look for combinations, look at young players. And Aleksandr Bukharov is clearly going to substitute Dzyuba as target man. However, we need to admit Russia frankly has few chances for many goals after the loss of Alan Dzagoev and Artyom Dzyuba.

With acting coach Stanislav Cherchesov, the more matches the team plays, the less it becomes clear what a team it is, what football it plays and what a skeleton it has. Photo: Oleg Tikhonov

Portugal

As strange as it sounds, even due to all the merits of the national team of Portugal at last year's European Championship in France, this squad doesn't look as an obvious favourite among other candidates to the cup. The thing is that at 2016 Euro the Portuguese players played depending on their rival, mainly showing us soporific football with rare attacks. It is probably even the most boring playing champion of the Old World in the tournament's history.

But now we are not talking about the thrill of the Portuguese players' football but their tactics. So, the Portuguese will have to play against the squads of Russia, Mexico and New Zealand at the Confederations Cup. Apart from the Latin American team, probably there is nobody to play with. They will have to attack and smash unclear, unknown Russian and New Zealand players whose one point in the match with Portugal will, undoubtedly, be a gorgeous result.

However, unlike Germany, Portugal decided to send its best squad to Russia, the players whose majority won the victory in France. Considering that the national team of Portugal is going to its first tournament and for the majority of the current squad it is the last chance to win in another international competition, the guys will face the Confederations Cup with a great desire.

It is already known that Cristiano Ronaldo and André Gomes, Nani, Ricardo Quaresma, João Moutinho, who has just celebrated the title in France with Monaco, and, of course, Pepe — the most annoying defender who causes anger among fans. In brief, Portugal is coming to confirm the title.

The key hope of Mexico is ahead – it is Javier Hernández or Chicharito, of course. Photo: epa.eu

Mexico

This national team already managed to win hearts of millions of people around the world including Russia in the World Cup in Brazil. So we should not worry about empty stands in Kazan or Sochi. However, the Confederations Cup in Russia is not going to be the main competition this summer for the Mexican players. The next CONCACAF Cup will be in July in North America. So for Mexico, the competition is to become a kind of preparation for the major competition of their continent. But we should not expect the Latin-Americans to come to Russia without goals for the tournament.

The Mexican players are doing great while qualifying for the upcoming world cup. Juan Carlos Osorio's players with ten points take the first place leaving their principal rival – the USA – behind by six points. So the Aztecs are likely to do their best to fight for this trophy.

The first match against Portugal in Kazan on 18 June is going to be the most difficult match for Mexico. But if they manage to win a point and maybe the three points, it will be quite a possible goal to solve the problem of reaching the semi-final with less known New Zealand and Russia (again in the capital of Tatarstan).

Mexico has its attacking troika. It is probably not as effective as that of Barcelona, but it is also powerful. The key hope of Mexico is ahead – it is Javier Hernández or Chicharito, of course. The ''little pea'' has recently become the best forward in the history of his national team outranking goal scorer of the noughties Jared Borgetti. This Confederations Cup can be an arena for Chicharito to show himself as a big football player because people started to forget him after he left Manchester United. Chicharito who dreams of European cups is unlikely to stay at Bayer for long.

Veteran of the national team Rafael Márquez is, of course, the second player of the troika. And 30-year-old Andrés Guardado is the last Aztec the country will count on. In terms of the number of games played for Mexico, this defender gives way only to Márquez.

Mexican Ronaldinho Orbelín Pineda from Guadalajara attracting with his speed, dribbling and great shoot is likely to show off among fresh names in this tournament. Orbelín usually resides in the centre of the pitch where he is able to disperse the attack coping with 2-3 players of the team on his own. The speed allows to look at Pineda's receding feet. This short midfield can make a decisive pass to score a goal or do it on his own. So, judge yourself.

The last ditch plays one of the main roles in this team. Goalkeeper Ochoa told about himself in the World Cup in Brazil no less loud than same Keylor Navas or Claudio Bravo. By the way, Mexico already won this tournament at home in 1999. Why can't they repeat it?

Chile

Why the Chilean squad suddenly showed off first in Brazil then in two American competitions still remains a mystery for everybody. Somebody blames the successful ''yield'' of stars who were brought up in the 90s. But names are not enough to become the best playing team with Brazilians and Argentinians in one competition.

For the Chileans, the win of the 2015 Copa America was the first notorious and unexpected victory after the bright WC. Then Chile managed to win this trophy for the first time in its history having deprived Messi and his Argentina of winning chances when they won the latter in the final in a penalty shootout. Coach of the national team Jorge Sampaoli decided to end his career on a high note. However, next year the USA hosted the so-called CONMEBOL (another 2016 Copa America in honour of the 100 th jubilee of the organisation). The Chileans repeated the performance having won over the Argentinians in the decisive match again. Probably Chile won this tournament thanks to the old coach. But next coach Juan Antonio Pizzi managed to maintain the success and fighting spirit of the team.

If you are an ordinary fan and the number of stars in the teams is important for you, Chile is a win-win option. Alexis Sánchez, Arturo Vidal, Claudio Bravo will come to Russia. Leonardo Valencia is another player who can become a discovery at the 2017 Confederations Cup. No, it is not a young talent. He is already 26 and has enough experience. At the moment Valencia plays for Palestino. He deserved to be called up to Russia for his performance there. However, French and Brazilian clubs are already interested in him a lot.

Chile has not qualified for the World Cup yet. But this goal is a priority of La Roja, of course. In the qualifying round, the South America champion was fourth being traditionally ahead of Argentina. But the latter is on its heels. The competition will show whether Chile will sweat blood at the Confederation Cup or wait for more important qualification for the 2018 WC will show in several days.

Germany

Before the squad of participants of the Russian Confederations Cup finally became known, the Germany team was the hot favourite for the upcoming tournament. In the end, no matter who will play against the reigning world champion. It is Germany.

However, in May, Joachim Löw cheated both FIFA and Russian fans when he called up the second team to the Confederations Cup, in fact. What we should add when 23-year-old Draxler seems to be one of the most famous players here.

Russian fans won't see Neuer, Müller, Kroos, Özil, Reus, Götze this summer. Of course, the hegemony of the Germans at the 2017 Confederations Cups doesn't seem to be obvious now. Nevertheless, they are still Germans, the same country that created an educational system of football players some 10 years ago and launched an assembly line to develop world-class stars.

23-year-old Draxler seems to be one of the most famous players here. Photo: thehardtackle.com

We should not underestimate those who are likely to be in the national team next year to fulfil the goal in order to defend the title of reigning world champion. For instance, Borussia's pupil Monchengladbach Amin Younes whom the club sold to Ajax several years ago for some €2 million. However, today more famous clubs than European League finalists and German middling teams want him.

Today Yunes is demonstrating gorgeous feints in the Dutch Championship with pleasure. This is why he attracted Löw. The Bundesteam's coach complained last year he lacked people who were able to win one-to-one. Now he has such brave guys in surplus.

In general, Germans are Germans, whatever squad they bring to Russia. And it is still one of the hot favourites for the upcoming cup. Especially considering nobody is going to wait a lot from such a squad.

By Erik Dobrolyubov
Sports