Russia vs. New Zealand
Date and Time: Saturday, June 17, 2017, 11 a.m. ET
Location: Krestovsky Stadium, Saint Petersburg, Russia
Soccer Odds: Russia -300, O/U 2.5
Russia vs. New Zealand TV Coverage: FOX Sports 1
There is a very high degree of expectation out of Russia in the Confederations Cup. The team is obviously playing at home and should have a slew of support from the hometown faithful. That said, this expectation is probably anything but warranted. We haven't seen the Russians play against top competition in quite some time, and if an 0-1-2 finish at Euro 2016 is any indication, this could end up being a very short tournament. Sure, the hosts have found a way to win the Confederations Cup a few times, but none of them have had the lack of soccer pedigree like this Russian side does.
New Zealand though, would have to be thrilled with a mere win in the group stage against a very tough Group A. The White Ferns are the minnows of the tournament and are 150 to 1 to capture the ultimate glory. They know they're here for three matches and three matches only unless they can find some magic in their legs. The bigger challenge is going to be preparing for the World Cup qualifiers in Oceania and securing a spot in the intercontinental playoff.
The Russians are being asked to lay a goal and a half here on the Asian Handicap, and if they're going to get the job done from that standpoint, they're going to need to produce some goals.
They've had some effective matches up front, but they also had some horrible duels against Qatar and Chile in which they flat out never looked like scoring in spite of the fact that they struck once in each match.
With Artem Dzyuba out of the fold with a knee injury, the top scorer on this team is Fyodor Smolov. The good news is that Smolov was the leading scorer in the Russian domestic league this year. The bad news is that he only has seven goals for his country in his career and is this particular team's leader in that department.
In the case of New Zealand, this isn't an easy team to score against. Sure, we haven't seen the White Ferns play anyone of any real note since taking on the United States in Washington D.C. back in October, but since that point, they've allowed a total of just two goals, one to Northern Ireland and one to Belarus in consecutive friendlies leading into this tournament.
Russia vs. New Zealand Free Picks
Simply put, there aren't many teams that are going to reach a level like this one that Russia should be -300 against on the moneyline or -1.5 against on the Asian Handicap. At plus odds and +1.5, this is just far too good of a price to avoid taking with the New Zealanders.
Manager Anthony Hudson has this team genuinely believing that it can come to Russia and get a result or two, and we aren't doubting him. Odd things happen at this level between the best teams and the worst teams, and though the hosts almost always win their first fixture of tournaments like this, this could be a struggle. Though we'll still fancy the Russians to ultimately get the three points they're craving, we'll still take New Zealand on the Asian Handicap quite happily.
Russia vs. New Zealand Soccer Pick: New Zealand +1.5 at BookMaker.eu
Russia vs. New Zealand Score Prediction: Russia 1, New Zealand 0