European champs cruise into Confed Cup semifinals

Lynette Rowe
June 28, 2017

The Oceania champions were far from disgraced but have now competed in the tournament four times without winning a game and have an overall record of 11 defeats and a draw in 12 matches.

New Zealand, the OFC Nations Cup winners, had made a positive opening with Leeds forward Chris Wood seeing his shot saved.

"I thought we played well in many parts of the game; in others, not so well. They're a team with great spirit and capacity".

Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo, left, is replaced by Nani during the Confederations Cup, Group A soccer match between New Zealand and Portugal, at the St. Petersburg Stadium, Russia, Saturday, June 24, 2017.

Portugal coach Fernando Santos gave New Zealand a boost by withdrawing Ronaldo 23 minutes from the end, but substitute Nani almost made a swift impact, latching on to Quaresma's cross and slamming a powerful shot at Marinovic from 10 yards.

Ronaldo did not complain and soon scored when Portugal earned its penalty.

Four minutes later, Eliseu was set free down the left by Ricardo Quaresma's clever pass and he pulled the ball back into the middle, where Bernardo Silva turned it into the net, although he suffered a knock on the ankle in the process.

Igor Smolnikov had Russia's best chance to level, smashing over from close range, but the hosts could not produce a comeback and will not participate in the semi-finals, with Mexico progressing alongside Portugal from Group A, reports.

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The problem though was that the lead only lasted five minutes when Patricio Araujo headed home a long ball to get his side back on level terms.

Russian Federation goalkeeper Igor Akinfeev completely mis-read the situation after Hector Herrera sent a looping clearance 80 metres downfield from the edge of the Mexican area seven minutes into the second half.

That seemed to give the hosts a lift but with just over 20 minutes to go in the game, Zhirkov, who had already got a yellow card in the first half, was showing a second yellow for an elbow on Miguel Layún and therefore was sent off. Andre Silva dribbled deep into the New Zealand penalty area to score with a rising shot in the 80th, and a substitute, Nani, shot low past goalkeeper Stefan Marinovic in stoppage time.

The 34-year-old Pepe, on his way out of Real Madrid, was voted the man of the match when Portugal defeated host France 1-0 in the final of the 2016 European Championship.

Goals from Nestor Araujo and Hirving Lozano either side of half time was enough to cancel out an Aleksandr Samedov opener for Russian Federation.

Mexico went ahead seven minutes after the break, Akinfeev making a calamitous decision to come for a long ball and missing it, allowing Lozano a simple finish.

Mexico had a second-half goal by the defender Héctor Moreno disallowed for offside after video review.

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