Mexico relishing chance to show its worth against Russia
ABS-CBN Sports on Jun 24, 2017 09:19 AM
Mexico's Diego Reyes exercises during a training session in Kazan, Russia, on Friday, June 23, 2017. Mexico will play Russia in a Confederations Cup, Group A soccer match scheduled for Saturday, June 24, 2017. (AP Photo/Martin Meissner)
TALES AZZONI, AP Sports Writer
KAZAN, Russia (AP) — The game against host nation Russia will mean more to Mexico than just a spot in the Confederations Cup semifinal.
Coach Juan Carlos Osorio says it will be the perfect opportunity to show that Mexican soccer has matured and reached a level at which it can succeed under the most difficult circumstances.
"I honestly think that this is the perfect scenario for Mexican football," Osorio said Friday. "We play away from home, against the host team, with a lot of support from their fans, and fighting for the qualification. We need to control the game and to show to ourselves, especially, that we can compete under such difficult circumstances."
Mexico needs at least a draw in Saturday's game in Kazan to secure a spot in the semifinals of the eight-nation tournament that serves as a warm up for next year's World Cup. Mexico and Portugal have four points each after two rounds of games in Group A. Russia has three points and New Zealand zero. The top two teams advance to the semifinals.
Osorio said Mexico has been waiting for this type of game.
"It's an extraordinary scenario because it gives Mexican football and this group of players the possibility of showing that we have the capacity to take on this responsibility, that we have the talent and the determination to play in this scenario. If we do well, we will take a step forward, and we keep growing as a team capable of playing against any team."
Mexico faced host nations in the last two World Cups, drawing with South Africa in 2010 and with Brazil in 2014. It lost to Brazil in the 2013 Confederations Cup, and to Germany in the 2005 Confederations Cup.
"We can't play a game of this magnitude being afraid of losing," Mexico midfielder Andres Guardado said. "We will be at a disadvantage if we enter the game with this mentality. We need to play with motivation. We know we have great chances of advancing."
For Russia, anything but a victory will mean an early exit from its home tournament, although advancing was already seen as a difficult task in a group with Mexico and Portugal.
"On one hand, we have a great deal of responsibility, on the other hand, we are really looking forward to it," Russia coach Stanislav Cherchesov said. "On paper they are certainly better than us. We are the only country that is not the champion of its respective continent. We started from the ground up and we are trying to take steps to reach higher goals."
Osorio is certain to be without midfielder Carlos Salcedo, who suffered a shoulder injury in the game against New Zealand. Defender Hector Moreno is listed as doubtful because of a muscle injury.
Moreno scored the stoppage-time equalizer in Mexico's 2-2 opening draw against European champions Portugal. Mexico came from behind to defeat New Zealand 2-1 in its second game.
Guardado said he was glad that Mexican fans have stopped homophobic chants that prompted a warning by FIFA.
"I hope that it stays that way," he said. "Not only here, but also at home in World Cup qualifiers we will be playing in the future."
Tales Azzoni on Twitter: http://twitter.com/tazzoni
More AP Confederations Cup coverage: www.apnews.com/tag/ConfederationsCup