N Zealand 15/2
Hosts Russia square off against New Zealand in St. Petersburg on Saturday in the opening match of the Confederations Cup. The Russians will be looking to show their competitiveness ahead of next year’s World Cup.
Russia automatically qualified for the tournament because they are the hosts. They have slipped to a record low 63rd in the FIFA world rankings, although that is due to playing only lower-ranked friendlies in recent months. They last won a competitive game in October 2015.
Russia have impressed in their last three friendlies, going unbeaten while winning once. They came from 3-1 down to earn a draw against Belgium. That result followed with a thumping 3-0 win away to Hungary, before earning a 1-1 draw against Chile last Friday.
Aleksandr Golovin is being hailed as the future of Russian football and is said to have attracted interest from Arsenal. The attacking midfielder has plenty of skill and intelligence on the ball. He will be integral to any success his country have in the tournament.
Feder Smolov is another key player for the hosts as he is lethal in front of goal. The 27-year-old has scored 38 league goals in 50 games for FC Krasnodar – an impressive tally, to say the least.
Goalkeepers: Igor Akinfeev (CSKA Moscow), Vladimir Gabulov (Arsenal Tula), Guilherme (Lokomotiv Moscow)
Defenders: Georgy Dzhikiya (Spartak Moscow), Fyodor Kudryashov (FC Rostov), Ilya Kutepov (Spartak Moscow), Roman Shishkin (FC Krasnodar), Igor Smolnikov (Zenit St. Petersburg), Viktor Vasin (CSKA Moscow), Dmitry Kombarov (Spartak Moscow)
Midfielders: Yuri Gazinsky (FC Krasnodar), Denis Glushakov (Spartak Moscow), Alexander Golovin (CSKA Moscow), Alexei Miranchuk (Lokomotiv Moscow), Alexander Samedov (Spartak Moscow), Dmitry Tarasov (Lokomotiv Moscow), Alexander Yerokhin (FC Rostov), Yuri Zhirkov (Zenit St. Petersburg), Ruslan Kambolov (Rubin Kazan)
Forwards: Alexander Bukharov (FC Rostov), Maxim Kannunikov (Rubin Kazan), Dmitry Poloz (FC Rostov), Feder Smolov (FC Krasnodar)
Coach Anthony Hudson guided New Zealand to victory over Papua New Guinea in the OFC Nations Cup final 12 months ago, which gave the All Whites their fourth appearance in the Confederations Cup. New Zealand is the lowest ranked (96th) nation in the tournament and they’ve never won a match in three previous Confederations Cup appearances.
The All Whites recorded back-to-back 2-0 victories over Fiji in Oceania 2018 World Cup qualifying in March. However, they were beaten 1-0 against Northern Ireland in a friendly on 2 June. Hudson will be hoping the tournament will act as a springboard to eventual World Cup qualification in November.
New Zealand doesn’t boast any high-profile names in their squad, with Winston Reid ruled out through knee injury. SuperSport United defender Michael Boxall has been selected but the same can’t be said of his clubmate Jeremy Brockie. Hudson will rely on highly-rated Leeds United star Chris Wood to fire his team to victory.
Goalkeepers: Stefan Marinovic (Unterhaching), Tamati Williams (Waalwijk), Glen Moss (Newcastle Jets)
Defenders: Andrew Durante (Wellington Phoenix), Thomas Doyle (Wellington Phoenix), Storm Roux (Central Coast Mariners), Michael Boxall (SuperSport United), Kip Colvey (San Jose Earthquakes), Themi Tzimopoulos (Giannina), Deklan Wynne (Vancouver Whitecaps), Sam Brotherton (Sunderland), Tommy Smith (Ipswich Town), Dane Ingham (Brisbane Roar)
Midfielders: Bill Tuiloma (Marseille), Clayton Lewis (Auckland City), Michael McGlinchey (Wellington Phoenix), Ryan Thomas (PEC Zwolle)
Forwards: Chris Wood (Leeds United), Monty Patterson (Ipswich Town), Shane Smeltz (Borneo), Kosta Barbarouses (Wellington Phoenix), Marco Rojas (Melbourne Victory), Alex Rufer (Wellington Phoenix)
Prediction: Russia Win & Over 2.5 goals (7/10)
Russia held Belgium and Chile to draws in their last two friendlies on home soil. The Russians should prove too strong against the lowly-ranked All Whites. Back the hosts and Over 2.5 Goals at 7/10.
By Chad Nagel