Cristiano Ronaldo and Portugal are on the verge of advancing to the next part of the FIFA Confederations Cup. They’ll wrap up the group stage on June 24 when they meet New Zealand. The game is at 11:00 AM ET so don’t miss it!
With one game left in group play, Portugal sits tied with Mexico at the top of the table. Yet, they’re only one point ahead of the 2017 FIFA Confederations Cup host country Russia. So, Cristiano Ronaldo, 32, Andre Gomes, 23, Pepe, 34 and the rest of A Selecção can’t sleep on New Zealand in this match. If they walk away with a tie – or worse, a loss – then they may watch their shot at the Cup disappear right before their very eyes. When both of these squads hit the pitch of the Krestovsky Stadium in Saint Petersburg, expect both to go big because if they don’t – they’re going home.
Honestly – the likelihood of New Zealand handing Portugal an L is low. The All Whites have crashed and burned in this tournament. They fell 0-2 to Russia in the Confederations Cup’s opening match, before stumbling to a 2-1 loss to Mexico. While it’s not impossible that the Kiwis pick up their first (and only) win against Ronaldo’s squad, it’s quite improbable. Even if they were to beat Portugal, New Zealand’s time in the tournament is up. If Russia loses to Mexico while the All Whites beat Portugal, the (current) -3 goal differential means that New Zealand will be watching the rest of the cup from home.
Since Portugal only needs a draw to advance to the semifinals, there’s a good chance that coach Fernando Santos, 62, decides to rest Cristiano. With Ronaldo having a lover’s quarrel with Real Madrid over the club not doing enough to help clear his name over allegations of tax fraud, perhaps Fernando will give Ronaldo the day off as a way to ease the team captain’s mind? Or, perhaps Ronaldo plays and continues his impressive scoring run, having found the net 15 times in his last nine games for both club and country, per FIFA.com.
Portugal might need Ronaldo to ensure victory. New Zealand almost stole a win from Mexico. Chris Wood broke the seal by scoring on El Tri right before halftime, according to ESPN FC, forcing the Mexican side to come out kicking in the second half. Raul Jimenez hit the equalizer at the 54 th minute, and 18 minutes later, Oribe Peralta scored the point to give Mexico the win. Yet, Ryan Thomas came very, very close to tying thing sup at the 85 th minute. If they can pull out some surprises in this game, New Zealand might actually get to raise the W.
Who do you want to win, HollywoodLifers?