Saturday 24 June 2017, 18:21

Favourites advance as hosts bow out

  • Portugal and Mexico go through, Russia are eliminated

  • NZL 0-4 POR: As it happened, stats and more

  • MEX 2-1 RUS: As it happened, stats and more

DAY REPLAYED – Portugal had one foot and four toes in the knockout stage before the ball got rolling on the final Group A matchday at the FIFA Confederations Cup Russia 2017 and they finished the job with minimum fuss by cruising past New Zealand in Saint Petersburg.

The events in that game left third-placed Russia needing to beat Mexico, who topped the standings before kick-off, in order to leapfrog the central Americans and progress at their expense. Despite the support of a packed Kazan Arena, the hosts were unable to keep up their end of the bargain and took their leave of the competition.

A 34th-minute Cristiano Ronaldo penalty opened the scoring for Portugal against the Kiwis, who had already been knocked out but were eager to go out on a high note, before Bernardo Silva doubled the European champions' advantage three minutes later. Andre Silva made it 3-0 in the 80th minute with a solo strike that put Fernando Santos' men on course to claim top spot on goal difference and Nani added further gloss to the scoreline in stoppage time.

The destination of the other semi-final ticket seemed anything but a foregone conclusion for a short while, with Russia forging ahead in the 25th minute through Alexander Samedov's precise, low drive. However, their lead only lasted for five minutes before Nestor Araujo equalised with a deft header that looked suspiciously like an attempted lay-off – something our team reporters are sure to ask him about! Hirving Lozano subsequently completed the Mexican comeback after the interval.

There were no doubts about the intent on this occasion, the attacker nipping in ahead of a stranded Igor Akinfeev – who had rushed out of his area but failed to reach the ball in time – and heading into the empty net. Ironically, the Russia custodian and captain had taken the blame for the winning goal he conceded against Portugal, when there did not appear to be much more he could have done. This time round, his contribution to his country's downfall was undeniable.

The keeper's mistake was compounded by fellow veteran Yury Zhirkov, who made the hosts' already difficult task that much harder by earning himself the first red card of the tournament.

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