B/R Experts: Confederations Cup Predictions, June 24-25

BR-UK StaffFeatured Columnist IVJune 23, 2017

B/R Experts: Confederations Cup Predictions, June 24-25

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    Ivan Sekretarev/Associated Press

    It's crunch time at the FIFA Confederations Cup, with the final round of group games set to decide who progresses to the semi-finals.

    New Zealand face Portugal and Mexico take on Russia on Saturday. Sunday's games are Chile versus Australia and Germany versus Cameroon.

    Read on for our experts' views on the fixtures.

New Zealand vs. Portugal

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    Chris Brunskill Ltd/Getty Images

    Adam Digby

    Against an already-eliminated New Zealand in Saint Petersburg on Saturday, Portugal only need a point to secure progression to the semi-finals.

    Coach Fernando Santos will still demand a strong defensive performance despite the possibility Cristiano Ronaldo and potentially other key players will sit out this match.

    Their opponents, meanwhile, will have enjoyed ending their 555-minute goalless run at the Confederations Cup, with New Zealand hungry to secure a first win at a senior FIFA tournament. They looked strong in their 2-1 defeat to Mexico, but boss Anthony Hudson will know the wing-backs in his favoured 5-3-2 formation will be in for arguably the most testing 90 minutes of their careers here, as noted by Brendan Hanley for FIFA.com.

    Prediction: New Zealand 0-3 Portugal

    First goalscorer: Bernardo Silva


    Dean Jones

    It would be a fairytale for New Zealand to beat the European champions, but it is just not going to happen.

    Even against Mexico, when they raised their performance level, created chances and took the lead, they lost the game.

    Chris Wood is their star man, yet he was guilty of missing enough chances in that match that would have put the game beyond Mexico had they gone in. They may score one—at most—but Portugal could score three or four.

    Portugal won their last game 1-0, but it could, and probably should, have been a wider margin. Cristiano Ronaldo has not stepped off the gas, and for that reason alone, you just can not see beyond Portugal.

    PredictionNew Zealand 0-3 Portugal

    First goalscorer: Bernardo Silva


    Karl Matchett

    New Zealand are already out after throwing away their lead over Mexico in the second game, so it's all about Portugal's task.

    A draw guarantees them passage to the semi-finals, so they might want to rotate the team again somewhat, but they can't afford to make wholesale changes.

    Portugal look the most well-rounded outfit in the group, and they have a varied skill set in midfield to open up different teams—it's just whether they have that killer edge in attack, Cristiano Ronaldo aside, to see off everybody. They'll win this one with no problems, though.

    Prediction: New Zealand 0-2 Portugal

    First goalscorer: Cristiano Ronaldo


    Sam Tighe

    It's difficult to see anything other than a Portugal win here, and it feels foolish to pretend it'll be anything other than straightforward. New Zealand may have given Mexico a tough time of it on Wednesday, but El Tri sent out a reserve squad and still did the job at hand.

    The European champions don't really have the luxury of rotating heavily, as they'll want to win and outscore Mexico in the other game, paving the way for top spot. Also, if they do bring a few fringe players in, we're still dealing with exceptional talents such as Gelson Martins and Bernardo Silva.

    PredictionNew Zealand 0-3 Portugal

    First goalscorer: Andre Silva

Mexico vs. Russia

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    PATRIK STOLLARZ/Getty Images

    Adam Digby

    This game promises to be a hotly contested affair, with both teams needing a result in order to progress.

    Group A leaders Mexico will take on Russia at the Kazan Arena knowing that a draw would be enough for them to advance, while the hosts need to win or risk relying on New Zealand defeating Portugal.

    El Tri will be forced to reshuffle their back line.

    Carlos Salcedo has been ruled out of the tournament with a shoulder injury, while Hector Moreno is a doubt. Moreno replaced Salcedo in the 33rd minute of his side's 2-1 victory over New Zealand only to be withdrawn just over half an hour later.

    Prediction: Mexico 2-2 Russia

    First goalscorer: Aleksandr Erokhin


    Dean Jones

    Mexico continue to show great belief and a strong mentality. They twice came from behind to earn a draw with Portugal and then came from behind to beat New Zealand.

    They made lots of changes for Matchday 2 but can not take so many risks here—and may well benefit from the rest that was given to key players.

    Russia, the hosts, know a win would take them into the semi-finals, so this match will not be straightforward for El Tri, even though they are the better side. The big worry for Russia is their players look exhausted, mentally and physically.

    Prediction: Mexico 2-1 Russia

    First goalscorer: Javier Hernandez


    Karl Matchett

    The crunch game of the group. Winner takes all—but a draw sides with Mexico, not the hosts.

    Russia were far too defensive against Portugal for the first hour and need to learn the lessons from that defeat, particularly as it's win or nothing for them this time out.

    Mexico can take their time, use the ball as well as they typically do and wait for Russia to make mistakes at the back, which they inevitably do.

    A single goal from Mexico will probably be enough, as Russia just don't look to have enough creativity or attacking prowess to score more than once.

    The tournament has been a bit of a whimper for the hosts, featuring half-full stadiums and a half-hearted team. They need to change the latter to progress.

    Prediction: Mexico 1-1 Russia

    First goalscorer: Raul Jimenez


    Sam Tighe

    Russia are most certainly on the up. They may have lost to Portugal on Wednesday, but their performance at the Confederations Cup has exceeded expectations.

    They'll provide a test for a Mexico side that has looked just a little hapless defensively. But while spaces might be available and the opportunities might flow, Russia are far from prolific and may squander too many chances to outgun their counterparts.

    PredictionMexico 1-1 Russia

    First goalscorer: Javier Hernandez

Chile vs. Australia

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    Chris Brunskill Ltd/Getty Images

    Adam Digby

    With a win over Cameroon and a draw with Germany, Chile have been impressive and need just to draw here to secure a place in the semi-finals. They will almost certainly launch into this encounter with the same attacking intent that has become a hallmark of the side in recent years, with Alexis Sanchez and Arturo Vidal leading the way.

    The game will likely be another uphill battle for Australia, who have registered just two wins—against Bangladesh and the United Arab Emirates—in their past eight outings away from home.

    There is little reason to expect that to change here, with the markets for La Roja leading at half-time and full-time and there to be over 2.5 goals perhaps providing excellent value.

    PredictionChile 3-0 Australia

    First goalscorer: Alexis Sanchez


    Dean Jones

    Chile have a great chance to win this tournament, and their flexible style of play is an advantage. Even Germany coach Joachim Low admitted to reporters he has been impressed by their tactics after the two sides drew 1-1 on Thursday.

    There is such a high intensity about Chile's play, and it is difficult to see how Australia will combat that over 90 minutes.

    The Socceroos lacked composure in the final third against Cameroon and will have been disappointed to draw that game 1-1. One positive is that young players are gaining huge experience, and they will undoubtedly look forward to testing themselves against more opponents like this.

    Chile will win but may have to work hard for it.

    PredictionChile 2-0 Australia

    First goalscorer: Alexis Sanchez


    Karl Matchett

    A draw is enough for Chile to progress, while Australia need one of the biggest results in their history—so it's not difficult to predict who will be happiest come full-time.

    Australia have shown flashes during the tournament, moments when it came together through endeavour and physicality rather than talent, but you can't outrun or outfight Chile.

    Even if the AFC representatives start fast and swarm Chile early on, there's more than enough attacking threat to pull the Socceroos apart later in the match. You simply can't see anything past a Chile victory in this game.

    Prediction: Chile 2-0 Australia

    First goalscorer: Alexis Sanchez


    Sam Tighe

    For Chile and Australia, see Portugal and New Zealand. Not to lump the Antipodean teams together in such a general way, but they're both about to receive firm beatings.

    La Roja's high-energy style causes problems for all comers; they're an all-weather team who are equipped to beat the big boys just as easily as the minnows.

    The Socceroos have improved tenfold under Ange Postecoglou, but he hasn't been able to fully remove the kind of jitters and errors Chile will take advantage of.

    Prediction: Chile 3-1 Australia

    First goalscorer: Eduardo Vargas

Germany vs. Cameroon

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    Chris Brunskill Ltd/Getty Images

    Adam Digby

    Having fought back from a goal down to earn a draw with Chile, Germany will head into this clash with much more confidence, with their strength in depth once again proving to be a vital weapon to coach Joachim Low. He will also likely once again look to lean on the quality of Lars Stindl, with the striker netting on his past two intentional appearances. His presence is giving the team—which previously employed a false nine—a new and different dimension.

    While the Mannschaft could ease into the semi-finals with a draw, anything other than a win for Cameroon will send them out of the competition. The African champions were by far the better side in their 1-1 draw with Australia, but Vincent Aboubakar wasted a number of easy scoring chances. Sadly for them, Germany are a far better side, and this will likely end in a comprehensive defeat for Cameroon, who simply lack the quality in midfield to make this game competitive.

    PredictionGermany 3-1 Cameroon

    First goalscorer: Julian Draxler


    Dean Jones

    With such an inexperienced squad in Russia, Germany will be happy with the point they gained against Chile. But this is a match in which they have to make a statement.

    It is time to see these players assert themselves on a game and showcase the high level of talent coming through the ranks.

    Cameroon are weak defensively, and their shape will be easily pulled apart with quick passing and transitions.

    Prediction: Germany 4-0 Cameroon

    First goalscorer: Julian Draxler

    Karl Matchett

    This should be a pretty entertaining match given Germany's preference of controlling games, yet having a lack of leadership at the back after transitions, coupled with Cameroon's ability to get numbers forward quickly.

    The midfield line loves to collectively attack space after turnovers, which could cause problems for Germany, especially with Shkodran Mustafi continuing meltdown mode in the Confeds. That said, Cameroon lack a convincing presence in the penalty box, whereas Germany always seem to find a route to goal. They'll be going through one way or another.

    Prediction: Germany 2-1 Cameroon

    First goalscorer: Julian Draxler


    Sam Tighe

    Germany will be heavy favourites for this game, and with good reason. They boast a far superior squad to Cameroon, but they've been a little shaky in this tournament. There's room for an upset if the African champions can take the chances provided.

    Vincent Aboubakar, Christian Bassogog and Benjamin Moukandjo offer speed and strength aplenty in the forward areas. The only problem is Cameroon's defensive organisation has been nothing short of shambolic in Russia, and Germany will likely be the ones capitalising, not the other way around.

    PredictionGermany 2-1 Cameroon

    First goalscorer: Julian Draxler