Portugal vs New Zealand Preview: Ronaldo looks to lead Portugal into semi-finals

Portugal will be looking to secure a place in the semi-finals of the competition as they take on New Zealand at the Saint Petersburg Stadium on Saturday evening.

Portugal vs New Zealand Preview: Ronaldo looks to lead Portugal into semi-finals
Ronaldo will be looking to lead Portugal into semi-finals against New Zealand (picture: Getty Images)

Portugal will be looking to secure a place in the semi-finals of the competition as they take on already eliminated New Zealand at the Saint Petersburg Stadium on Saturday evening.

How they've fared so far

Portugal have had a very successful period of late under the management of Fernando Manuel Fernandes da Costa Santos. Santos has stuck with a very similar team for this tournament to the one that won the 2016 European Championships in France. 

They did not get off to the best of starts as they were left frustrated by a last gasp Mexico equaliser in a 2-2 draw in their Group A match on Sunday. Ricardo Quaresma had given Portugal the lead after being set up by Real Madrid's Cristiano Ronaldo before Javier Hernández equalised shortly before half-time. Portugal will have thought they'd won all three points in the 86th-minute as Southampton full-back Cedric Soares' shot was deflected in. However, it was not to be as Hector Moreno snatched a last gasp winner in the 91st minute to claim Mexico a share of the spoils.

However, they responded to this disappointment by going on to beat Russia 1-0 at the Otkrytine Arena on Wednesday afternoon. Ronaldo scored the only goal of the game as he headed his side in front just eight minutes into the match. They then saw the rest of the game out relatively comfortably against what was a very negative Russia side. They will be looking to not only qualify for the semi-finals in this match but also win the group as they are being pushed hard by Mexico. 

Mexico came from behind to beat New Zealand 2-1. (picture: Getty Images / Joosep Martinson - FIFA)
Mexico came from behind to beat New Zealand 2-1. (picture: Getty Images / Joosep Martinson - FIFA)

New Zealand have not had much success in the competition so far and have already been eliminated from the tournament. They faced Russia in their first game and the hosts kicked off their campaign with a comfortable 2-0 win in Group A in St PetersburgMichael Boxall's unfortunate first-half own goal gave the Russian's the lead before Fedor Smolov scored from close range in the second-half to make sure of the victory. The striker is currently playing his football for Krasnodar and that was his eighth goal in 22 appearances for the national team. 

They also went on to lose their second game in the competition on Thursday night as Mexico beat them by a 2-1 scoreline amid ugly scenes. Leeds United's Chris Wood had given the All Whites the lead just minutes before half-time. However, goals from Raul Jimenez and Oribe Peralta sealed the three points for Mexico and sent them top of Group A. They will be playing for pride on Saturday evening and could struggle against what is a high quality Portugal attack which includes the likes of Ronaldo, Nani and Bernardo Silva to name a few. 

Last time they met

Portugal and New Zealand have never faced each other in an international match. This adds extra interest to how this one will play out. However, Santos' side should have too much for the All Whites even if they do rest several of their star players. 

Wood will be looking to score again against Portugal. (picture: Getty Images / Buda Mendes)
Wood will be looking to score again against Portugal. (picture: Getty Images / Buda Mendes)

Team news 

Portugal are aware that only one point is needed from this game to guarantee qualification for the semi-finals of the competition. This could lead to Santos being tempted to rest a couple of his key players such as Ronaldo. 

Several players could be rested by Portugal. (picture: Getty Images / Yuri Kadobnov)
Several players could be rested by Portugal. (picture: Getty Images / Yuri Kadobnov)

However, having been already eliminated from the competition, New Zealand have no reason to rest players. This will see them field their strongest line-up which includes the likes of Wood alongside Marco Rojas, Bill Tuiloma, Clayton Lewis, Ryan Thomas, Andrew Durante, Kip Colvey and more. They are very likely to set up in a defensive fashion so Portugal may need an early goal like had against Russia to prevent a potential goalless stalemate. 


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