Weblog: The football punter

I won't be putting a line through Confeds Cup

YOU know you’ve a seriously major international football tournament on your hands when the opening fixture features, er, New Zealand.

Twenty-five years after Saudi Arabia hosted the first Confederations Cup (it was called something else back then), this utter after-thought of an event pops up again to the annoyance of any footballers who might have fancied a summer holiday.

And first up it’s hosts Russia against New Zealand.

Eight countries involved, three from Europe, and unsurprisingly it’s Portugal and Germany, European and world champs respectively, who dispute favouritism.

However, while the Portuguese have headed for Russia all guns blazing with a squad packed with world-class superstars plus Bruno Alves, the Germans have opted for a strictly third-string approach.

Household names like Manuel Neuer, Mesut Ozil, Thomas Muller, Mats Hummels, Toni Kroos and so on, are back in their households leaving a fledgling German outfit flying the flag.

I’m going to put a line through them on grounds of experience having already put lines through Cameroon, the Kiwis and the Aussies, the latter just because I like putting a line through their name.

In fact the Aussies must be wondering why they’ve bothered with this. Having travelled halfway around the world to get there, they’ve now got to travel halfway round Russia for their three group matches which are played in Sochi (extreme south), St Petersburg (extreme north) and Moscow (somewhere in the middle).

I quite like the look of Mexico as an each-way option. Unbeaten in a World Cup qualifying section which continues to improve, they’ve flown into Russia with a full-strength squad and a lot of their key men play their football in Europe.

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Match in Focus

11:35 TODAY BBC1

China v Wales

Home Win Draw Away Win
Key stats
  • China failed to win both of their 2017 China Cup games
Expert verdict
Ryan Giggs takes charge for the first time as Wales manager when they face the hosts in the China Cup and the Manchester United legend will be delighted to have the services of talisman Gareth Bale. His presence is a huge boost for Giggs in his bid to get off to a winning start and his team should be able to secure a victory.