Putin present to see Russia kick off Confederations Cup


It will be European champion Portugal, with Cristiano Ronaldo in top form, taking on Gold Cup victor Mexico in a game that is likely to decide the group victor.

The Portuguese sports daily A Bola published a front-page story on Friday saying that Ronaldo was upset with the accusations made against him and that his decision was "irreversible".

"It's a high-profile match", Mexico forward Hirving Lozano said.

Having played his last test match on June 9 against the Chilean team, the Russian team as a whole looked good.

The Selecao were winners of the Confederations Cup in 2005, 2009 and 2013, when they hosted the tournament, but this is the first time Brazil have failed to qualify since the field was expanded to eight teams in 1997.

Russian soccer fan leader Alexander Shprygin has been barred from attending his country's opening Confederations Cup match against New Zealand in St Petersburg hours before kickoff on Saturday.

Participants in the 2017 Confederations Cup are hosts Russian Federation, 2014 FIFA World Cup Champions Germany, 2015 Copa America Champions Chile, 2015 AFC Asian Cup Champion Australia, 2015 CONCACAF Gold Cup winners Mexico, 2016 UEFA Euro Cup champs Portugal, OFC (Oceania Football Confederation) Nations Cup victors New Zealand and 2017 CAF Africa Cup of Nations Champion Cameroon. New Zealand is, however, playing its 4th Confederation football championship but has lost 8 of 9 tournaments.

Ronaldo was peaking when he ended his season with Real Madrid, and now is looking to continue his good form with the national team in Russian Federation. Indeed, this edition - replete with the forward prancing Cristiano Ronaldo, the zealous Alexis Sanchez and the young Joachim Low brigade - may well be the last incarnation of the tournament with the 2021 Confederations Cup in doubt over climate and calendar challenges in Qatar.

Anthony Hudson's side are through to the final round of regional World Cup qualifying and will play Solomon Islands in a two-legged play-off, but New Zealand suffered 1-0 defeats to Northern Ireland and Belarus in recent friendlies.

KAZAN, Russia (AP) - Portugal is not anxious about Cristiano Ronaldo being distracted at the Confederations Cup by talk of his possible departure from Real Madrid. "I have the same confidence today", Portugal coach Fernando Santos said earlier this week.

"The clashes between the fans in Marseille previous year were ugly", Alexei Sorokin, the CEO of Russia's organizing committee, told AFP in a recent interview.

Portugal is making its debut in the Confederations Cup, while Mexico is playing in the intercontinental competition for the seventh time.

He has helped Madrid win three Champions League titles.

The Indomitable Lions, who reached the final in 2003, surprised everyone by winning the Africa Cup of Nations in Gabon at the turn of the year, while Chile won back-to-back Copa America crowns in the last two years and are spearheaded by Alexis Sanchez and Arturo Vidal. They drew with Chile pre-tournament and snaffled a 3-3 draw against Belgium in March.

A regular of Portugal's youth teams, Silva began attracting headlines when he joined Porto's senior squad and played well from the start, finishing the season with 21 goals.