Portugal, Mexico, Russia tussle for semi-final berths

Kristopher Nichols
June 25, 2017

Akinfeev continued his strong performance in the second half with a stunning reflex save from new AC Milan Andre Silva who attempted to put the ball back across goal only to be denied.

Things remain tight in Group A before Saturday's final round.

Moreno scored the stoppage-time equalizer in Mexico's 2-2 opening draw against European champions Portugal.

Although some might say that it was an off day for the talented player, this is now the second match in a row that the L.A. Galaxy star has looked like the most quiet and reserved player for Mexico.

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.

Just before half-time, Portugal forward Andre Silva lashed out at Michael Boxall after a tussle with the New Zealand defender, which left him with a torn shirt - but could easily have also resulted in a red card.

The match - played at the Fisht Stadium in Sochi, Russia - ended 2-1 leaving New Zealand at the bottom of the table with no points, meaning the All Whites are now out of the tournament.

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Veteran Universidad de Chile stopper Johnny Herrera stood in for Bravo in Sunday's 2-0 win over Cameroon in Moscow. He said the new-look squad is already gelling despite just 10 days together.

Portugal coach Fernando Santos has paid the All Whites the highest possible compliment, saying that the current New Zealand team has the capacity to surprise anyone.

The Kiwis' superb first-half display and Chris Wood's shock goal rattled Mexico and a tense match boiled over with a mass brawl in the dying stages.

Portugal finish as winners of Group A ahead of Mexico on goal difference and face the Group B runners-up in Kazan on Wednesday.

After the draw with Portugal, Mexico's coach Juan Carlos Osorio made eight changes against New Zealand, which back-fired and his side only reacted when they fell behind. El Tri fans will keep their fingers crossed that Osorio avoids an extreme version of this strategy in future competitive games. Mexico came from behind to defeat New Zealand 2-1 in its second game.

"If we play like we did the other night, I have all the confidence in the world". We know Portugal are world class and they pose different problems to Mexico, but we are going to come to this game with the same mentality.

Stanislav Cherchesov, the manager charged with overcoming Mexico, is the fourth different one since Guus Hiddink, architect of the Euro 2008 success, stood down having failed to guide Russian Federation to the 2010 World Cup finals.

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