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Monday, 17 December, 2018

Chile can make a mark on debut in Confederations Cup

Settled Mexico value to take Group A spoils

Alexis Sanchez celebrates after Chile beat Argentina on penalties to retain Copa America
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Tournament starts 4pm Saturday

Brazil have dominated the Confederations Cup in recent times – lifting the trophy in 2005, 2009 and 2013 – but their absence this summer may allow south American rivals Chile to triumph in Russia.

The outright betting is dominated by Euro 2016 winners Portugal, world champions Germany and Copa America champions Chile.

Group A looks a marginally more competitive section with Portugal, Mexico and Russia set to contest the top two positions and New Zealand making up the numbers.

Group B features two of the three market leaders – Germany and Chile – but their qualification for the last four looks likely at the expense of African champions Cameroon and 2015 Asian Cup winners Australia.

Chile are taking part in the tournament for the first time but they have nothing to fear judged by their performances at the 2015 Copa America, where they overcame Uruguay and Argentina, and the 2016 Copa America Centenario where they got past Colombia and Argentina.

Germany are their toughest opponents in Group B but have travelled to Russia without several senior players.

Nominated captain Julian Draxler is the most experienced player in the squad with 30 caps, and the leading scorer with four goals.

Fifteen of the 21-man party have ten or fewer caps and no replacements were called up when midfielder Diego Demme and Manchester City forward Leroy Sane withdrew with injuries.

Germany's youngsters will be eager to impress Joachim Low but the lack of experience could count against them when they face the better teams in the tournament.

While Germany are using the tournament to experiment, Chile are fully committed to going as far as they can.

Eleven of their squad have 50 caps or more, including stars Claudio Bravo, Arturo Vidal and Alexis Sanchez.

Chile used to have the tag as nearly men but their back-to-back Copa America triumphs have turned them into winners and they look a value bet to add another piece of silverware over the next 15 days.

The weaker links in Group B are Australia and Cameroon.

Australia achieved a remarkable feat by winning the 2015 Asian Cup as tournament hosts but they haven't kicked on since and are third in their World Cup qualifying group behind Japan and Saudi Arabia.

Cameroon were surprise victors at the Africa Cup of Nations this year despite several star players opting not to take part.

The Indomitable Lions are once again without key players, including Premier League defenders Joel Matip and Allan Nyom, and will rely heavily on Besiktas forward Vincent Aboubakar. He is the only player in their squad with a double-figure goal tally - 17 goals in 57 internationals.

Group A looks a fascinating scrap between Russia, Portugal and Mexico for two qualification slots.

Portugal clearly mean business, having selected a strong squad headlined by captain Cristiano Ronaldo.

Ronaldo should get goalscoring support from rising star Andre Silva who recently transferred from Porto to Milan and is seeking to improve on an impressive international goals tally of seven in eight games.

If anything Portugal look less reliant on Ronaldo than they were at Euro 2016 but they have often been slow starters in tournaments and any early setbacks could prove costly.

They drew all three group matches at Euro 2016 and failed to get past the group stage at the 2014 World Cup.

Portugal's toughest matches are at the start of the group and if they fail to impress against Mexico and Russia, it could be all over before they play their final match against New Zealand.

Russia will want to impress in their final competitive games before the World Cup finals but they are down to 63rd in the Fifa rankings and their squad lacks star quality.

Krasnodar attacker Fyodor Smolov is their top scorer with just six goals in 19 games and the squad lacks experience with only goalkeeper Igor Akinfeev and left-sided defender Yuri Zhirkov capped more than 50 times.

Mexico's squad looks far more settled and features several players who are used to doing well in major tournaments.

El Tri collected seven points in a very tough group at the 2014 World Cup – drawing 0-0 with hosts Brazil - and were crowned 2015 Concacaf Gold Cup champions without losing any of their six matches.

Since appointing Colombian manager Juan Carlos Osorio in October 2015 they have played 24 matches, winning 18, drawing four and losing two.

They have been steadily growing in confidence and have every chance of qualifying for the Confederations Cup semi-finals as group winners.

New Zealand are the minnows in the section and the poorest team in the tournament.

They owe their place to their success at the 2016 OFC Nations Cup where they overcame hosts Papua New Guinea in the final, drawing 0-0 and winning 4-2 on penalties.

2pts 11-4 general
Mexico to win Group A
2pts 16-5 Hills

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Portugal look less reliant on Ronaldo than they were at Euro 2016 but they have often been slow starters in tournaments
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