2017 FIFA Confed. Cup: New Zealand in "David and Goliath" affair against Russia in Group A opener (Preview by Vincent Obi, PANA Editor)

St. Petersburg, Russia (PANA) - Russia host New Zealand at the Saint Petersburg Stadium on Saturday to usher in the 2017 Confederations Cup, the 10th edition of the tournament, a quadrennial international men's football tournament organised by FIFA.

The tournament, which is taking place from 17 June to 2 July, offers the Russians the chance to prepare for the 2018 FIFA World Cup finals on home soil as they welcome the OFC Nations Cup holders in Group A.

The All Whites, as the New Zealanders are called, find themselves among football royalty in Russia, as pundits believe they  have little chance of progressing from a group that also includes Portugal and Mexico.

Forecasters say the match is a true reflection of the biblical "David and Goliath affair" with the New Zealanders hoping to cause a shock as they cross the planet to participate.

Victory for the All Whites would be their first-ever win in the competition, but Russia will be favourites to prevail but both sides will face difficult tasks against Mexico and Portugal in their other group games. Three points for either Russia or New Zealand on Saturday will therefore be the tonic for a major Group A upset at the end of the group campaigns.

The All Whites coach, Anthony Hudson, speaking about the task in hand after recent losses to Northern Ireland and Belarus, said: "We go into this tournament wanting to do something significant, which is do something New Zealand has never done, and that is win a game at the tournament."

Hudson's men have a problem putting the ball in the net. Their lack of firepower is likely to haunt them against credible opposition and it will be difficult for them to make an impression in Group A.

Striker Chris Wood also commented on the match, saying "It is going to be a really special occasion. That is why we are doing all the hard work. This is why we play all of the hard games in the Islands. We want to be here competing in these big competitions. The boys are raring to go and will be up for it."

Russian head coach, Stanislav Cherchesov, is expected to employ a back three, with experienced goalkeeper Igor Akinfeev between the sticks, according to the FIFA media channel.

The hosts are reportedly in good form ahead of the opener, having lost just once in their last five matches after gaining draws against Belgium and Chile.

An early goal for the hosts could open the floodgates, and the All Whites will be hoping to avoid embarrassment.

Forecasters are all predicting a 3-0 win for Russia.
-0- PANA VAO/MA 17June2017

17 june 2017 07:52:40




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