Confederations Cup: Germany, Portugal avoid each other in group stage draw
World Cup holders Germany and European champions Portugal will avoid each other in the group stages of the Confederations Cup after the draw in Kazan.
Kazan: World Cup holders Germany and European champions Portugal will avoid each other in the group stages of the Confederations Cup after Saturday's draw in Kazan.
Hosts Russia will come up against Euro 2016 winners Portugal, Mexico and New Zealand in Group A in the event billed as a warm-up for the World Cup to be held in Russia in 2018.
In Group B Germany are lined up against South American champions Chile, Australia, the Asian champions, and the yet-to-be-decided African champions.
The tournament kicks off in Saint Petersburg on 17 June and will end at the same venue on 2 July. Matches will also be staged in Kazan, Moscow and Sochi.
Russia will take on Oceania champions New Zealand in the opening game before Cristiano Ronaldo's Portugal face CONCACAF champions Mexico in Kazan a day later.
"We have a difficult group," admitted Portugal coach Fernando Santos, who assured that Real Madrid superstar Ronaldo will lead his team.
"I'm sure Russia is among the favourites. As for us we are going to do our best and play with our best player, if he is fit of course and not injured."
The opening match in Group B will be played in Moscow at the home of Spartak Moscow and will see the Chile of Alexis Sanchez -- Copa America winners in the last two years -- meet the winners of the Africa Cup of Nations to be held in Gabon in January and February.
Australia, the 2015 Asian Cup winners, will be the first opponents for Joachim Loew's Germany in Sochi on Monday, 19 June.
"It's an interesting group," said Loew.
"What we've seen here in the last few days makes you look forward to the Confederations Cup.
"The country has good stadiums and the people are very friendly towards their guests.
"We're looking forward to it and the Russians do not have to worry -- we will come with a good team."
'Meeting all our obligations'
With just over six months to go until the tournament begins, Russia is having to deal with numerous challenges ranging from delays in stadium construction to corruption scandals and worries about their own national team.
After a disastrous Euro 2016 in which they were eliminated in the group stage while the country's football hooligans dominated headlines, Russia are rebuilding under a new coach in Stanislav Cherchesov but they currently languish in 55th place in the world rankings.
A key area of concern is the delayed construction of the venue for the final in Saint Petersburg, where a solution must be found to the retractable pitch at the futuristic 68,000-seater stadium that is unstable and unsuitable for play.
"We are meeting all our obligations. The World Cup is the main sports event worldwide and Russia will do everything to guarantee the highest level," assured Russia's deputy prime minister Vitaly Mutko, who is also the president of the Russian Football Union, at a press conference ahead of the draw.
"We are finishing preparations for the Confederations Cup. The Fisht Stadium in Sochi will be finished in November. The venue in Saint Petersburg is to be ready in December. In March and April 2017, we'll hold test friendlies there."
A $20 million purse is on offer -- $4.1 million for the winners and $3.6 million for the losing finalists, but Germany's team manager Oliver Bierhoff criticised the prize fund.
"It's a shame the sporting appeal and the financial resources for the teams don't fit together," he said.
"Economically, we will finish the tournament with a loss, because the premiums from Fifa and the budgeted limits for each team, and the support staff, are not sufficient for all the participating countries.
"In this regard, we would wish that different measures be applied."
Brazil have won the last three editions of the Confederations Cup, most recently as hosts in 2013.
The tournament in its current guise, organised by Fifa, was first played in 1997, when Brazil also lifted the trophy. In total Brazil have won it four times.
The match at Sao Paulo's Neo Quimica Arena on Sunday was halted when Brazilian health officials ran onto the pitch seven minutes after kick-off, triggering a melee involving team officials and players from both sides.
It was Australia's 10th win in a row and Football Australia said in a statement that the Socceroos became the first country in the Asian Football Confederation to achieve such a winning streak in one qualification campaign.
Belgium and Brazil retain first and second spots respectively, while England make their first appearance on the podium in nine years on the back of two wins and a draw in recent 2022 World Cup qualifiers.