Confederations Cup betting: NZ provide tricky opening test for host Russia

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Updated: June 17, 2017

The 10th edition of the FIFA Confederations Cup kicks-off tonight in Saint Petersburg with host nation Russia taking on the champions of Oceania, New Zealand. Russia have been in underwhelming form, winning just twice in nine outings since June last year. They struck just eight times in five home Euro 2016 qualifiers, and four of those goals came against Liechtenstein. This could be tighter than expected.

 

FIFA Confederations Cup Group A: Russia v New Zealand
Where: Krestovsky Stadium, Saint Petersburg, Russia
When: Sunday, June 18, 1am (AET)
Prices: Russia $1.30, New Zealand $11.00, DRAW $5.00

Confirmed bet: -2.5/total (two units @ $2.15)

TIW says: The Confederations Cup is one of the more unique FIFA tournaments. It was originally organised by and held in Saudi Arabia as the King Fahd Cup in 1992 and 1995 before becoming a sanctioned FIFA tournament in 1997. Initially staged every two years, it is now played every four years in the host country of the next World Cup finals. Considered a dress-rehearsal 12 months ahead of the World Cup it precedes, it provides the host nation (which qualifies for the finals automatically) experience at a high level of competition amid two years of otherwise meaningless friendlies. For the host nation of the 2018 World Cup finals, Russia, that means a group stage battle against the champions of Europe, Central/North America and Oceania – Portugal, Mexico and New Zealand. Their campaign kicks-off against the Kiwis in Saint Petersburg tonight. The two nations have only met once, at the 1982 World Cup, when Russia (as part of the Soviet Union) ran out 3-0 winners.

 

Manager Stanislav Cherchesov has set about creating a new-look team since the hugely disappointing Euro 2016 campaign, in which they finished with just one point from three group games. Familiar faces such as the Berezutsky brothers, Vasily and Aleksey, and fellow defender Sergey Ignashevich are gone. In their place, Cherchesov has put his faith in exciting young talent such as CSKA Moscow midfielder Aleksandr Golovin, Lokomotiv Moscow midfielder Aleksey Miranchuk and Spartak Moscow defender Georgy Dzhikya. He’s also brought in senior players previously on the fringes of the national set-up. They include CSKA defender Viktor Vasin and 32-year-old striker Rostov Aleksandr Bukharov (after a six-year absence from the national team). Russia, ranked 63rd in the world by FIFA, head into this match-up on the back of a 3-0 win over Hungary and a 1-1 draw with Chile in which he played Krasnodar marksman Fedor Smolov as a loan striker.

 

The ‘All Whites’ – ranked 95th in the world – are massive underdogs but are more than capable of pulling off a shock. Manager Anthony Hudson, a 36-year-old Englishman, is already making a name for himself in international football and has brought a new attacking ethos to the team, deploying an exciting young line-up. While New Zealand failed to find the net in their two warm-up games, in which they suffered 1-0 defeats against Northern Ireland and Belarus, they possess a prolific striker in Chris Wood. The Leeds United frontman was the top scorer in England’s second-tier championship last season, and has bagged 19 goals in 48 appearances for his country. He will be stand-in skipper at the Confederations Cup for the injured Winston Reid. Veteran striker Shane Smeltz remains a dangerous player while 22-year-old Ryan Thomas, who plays his club football with Dutch Eredivisie team PEC Zwolle is another poised to make his mark.

 

 

• Selections are listed in three categories – 1) Suggested (likely bet but yet to be finalised); 2) Confirmed (locked in at the price listed); and 3) Leans (tips, but not recommended bets); all times quoted are Australian Eastern Time (AET); prices with thanks to Bet365 (except where markets are not available), correct at time of publication. Results/comments on today’s games/races will follow in the next post.

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