No one said you had to advance to the Confederations Cup semifinals in aesthetically pleasing fashion.
Like times before in the tournament, resilience was the remedy for Mexico to overcome a deficit. It was Hirving Lozano’s heroic run and finish in the 52nd minute that earned Mexico a 2-1 victory against Russia on Saturday at Kazan Arena.
For the third time in its three group stage games, Mexico was forced to comeback from an untimely deficit. The home side took advantage of El Tri’s shaky and vulnerable defense early on. In the 25th minute, Alexander Samedov’s well placed left footed strike was inexorable for Guillermo Ochoa.
El Tri’s big man, Nestor Araujo, gave the visiting side a reason to believe only five minutes after Russia’s goal. Hector Herrera’s lofting diagonal cross was nonchalantly headed into the opposite post by the Santos Laguna center back, leveling the score and emotions before both sides headed to the dressing room.
Russia remained persistent in search of a victory despite Yury Zhirkov’s red card in the 68th minute. At times in the second half the hosts found themselves outplaying Mexico, most notably in the 74th minute. Igor Smolnikov put to waste Russia’s clearest and last chance to equalize the scoreline.
El Tri is lined up to play the winner of Group B back in Sochi on Thursday, while Russia is out of the tournament.
PORTUGAL DOMINATES NEW ZEALAND
Oceania’s struggle competing against Europe’s powerhouses continued on Saturday.
Led by no one else than Cristiano Ronaldo, Portugal squashed New Zealand 4-0 at Saint Petersburg Arena.
The Kiwis chances of leaving the tournament on a good note against the European champions were always going to be zero to none. And Portugal’s talisman, Ronaldo, made it clear 33 minutes into the first half after calmly finishing from the penalty spot.
After Ronaldo’s goal it was all downhill for the Kiwis. Manchester’s City new boy Bernardo Silva bagged one of his own in the 37th minute after a long hauled run down the middle of the box.
In the 80th minute, Andre Silva took advantage of the Kiwis dispossession near the half-way line. AC Milan’s newest addition dragged his way into the box and delivered a stunning strike before New Zealand’s three defenders could close in on him.
Moments before the final whistle Luis Nani’s driving cannon of a shot added the cherry on top for first-place Portugal, who awaits the for the runner-up of Group B.
Following their successful showing in the group-stage, Portugal await the runners-up of Group B in the semifinals, while New Zealand goes down as the only team to leave the tournament with three defeats.