Manuel Veth –
Matchday 1 of the FIFA Confederations Cup is finally complete. The Futbolgrad Network has covered all the games from the tournament and has scouted one player from each nation, who could be a standout player for their country in the future. Read about them here in our eight players to watch after matchday 1 article.
Here are our eight players to watch after matchday 1 of the Confederations Cup
Fedor Smolov #9 – Russia
Fedor Smolov was Russia’s best player on matchday 1 against New Zealand and easily made our eight players to watch list. In the absence of injured Zenit Saint Petersburg forward, Artem Dzyuba Fedor Smolov has been the obvious first choice for Russia’s head coach Stanislav Cherchesov. Those who have watched the Krasnodar striker in recent weeks will have noticed that there has been almost a sense of relief that he is without competition as the front striker. His confidence has been especially reflected in his standout goals against Hungary in the lead-up to the tournament and his goal against New Zealand on Saturday.
There has been plenty of debate on whether Smolov or Dzyuba should be the number one striker for Russia. Smolov, however, has now won the goalscoring title two years in a row playing. With this in mind, it will only be a question of time until Smolov will be the subject of a big-money move to Western Europe. Asked about the failed winter transfer to Germany Smolov responded: “where there is smoke there is fire, but there are particular misconception towards Russian players…” Russia’s head coach Stanislav Cherchesov in the meantime is sure that Smolov will head to a big club this summer. Scoring goals like on matchday 1 against New Zealand will certainly help Smolov’s cause to become the number one striker for his country and to manage a move to a big club abroad.
Chris Wood #9 – New Zealand
Chris Wood is a giant of a man. 195cm tall and 95kg heavy Wood looks like a striker from a bygone era. In fact, the All-Whites striker would not look out of place in the All-Black uniform of his country’s rugby national team. But despite his size Wood appears dynamic and surprisingly fluid in his motion. Furthermore, his size allows creating space for his teammates, and the combination of power and tactical awareness meant that he was New Zealand’s most dangerous player against Russia on matchday 1.
Chris Wood is one of the few New Zealand players who ply their trade in Europe. Playing for Leeds United in the English Championship the 25-year-old managed to score 25 goals in 44 games and has therefore managed to score himself into the notebooks of several Premier League clubs. Scouts will now follow closely how Wood will handle himself when playing against the likes of Russia, Portugal and Mexico.
Joseph Fabrice Ondoa #1 – Cameroon
It was not the best start for Cameroon against Chile. The African Champions handled themselves well in the match, and it took until the 81st minute until Chile’s Arturo Vidal was able to break the deadlock. One big reason for why Cameroon was able to hold out for such an extended period was goalkeeper Joseph Fabrice Ondoa. The Sevilla Atletico Club goalkeeper is still very much a project, but collecting valuable minutes at the Confederations Cup will help him to grow as a player.
A very dynamic keeper Ondoa has catlike reflexes and is strong in patrolling his box and was therefore an easy pick to make our eight players to watch list. But what perhaps stands out the most is his ability to start Cameroon’s attacking plays. Schooled at Barcelona Ondoa is very much a sweeper-keeper and with Cameroon sitting deep for the most part on matchday 1 it was Ondoa’s ability to quickly start counterattacking plays that allowed Cameroon to remain a threat against Chile throughout the match.
Charles Aránguiz #20 – Chile
Alexis Sánchez is the soul, Arturo Vidal is the heart, and Charles Aránguiz is the brain of Chile’s game. In fact, Aránguiz might be the most valuable player in Juan Antonio Pizzi’s 4-3-3 system. Aránguiz is in charge of balancing out Vidal’s sometimes-chaotic play by bringing order to the midfield. Aránguiz’s tactical abilities were critical in Chile winning their opening game against Cameroon. Balancing out Vidal’s play and also acting as a deep lying playmaker Aránguiz is an easy choice to make our eight players watch list.
It is certainly not the most glamorous job, but given the fact that Chile managed to win back-to-back Copa América titles with Aránguiz stringing together the midfield it is apparent that central midfielder is a key player for his country. The 28-year-old is looking back to a rather difficult season with Bayer Leverkusen and will want to use the Confederations Cup to re-establish his confidence and become Bayer’s first and foremost strategist in midfield.
Carlos Salcedo #3 – Mexico
Carlos Salcedo has recently completed a transfer from the Mexican club Chivas to Eintracht Frankfurt. With Salcedo starting against Portugal on matchday 1 there was some keen interest from Germany. First indications are that Eintracht have landed a very flexible player. Mexico’s head coach Juan Carlos Osorio chose a 4-3-3 formation for the opening match with Salcedo playing on the right side as a wingback.
First indications are that the 23-year-old can certainly fulfil that role, but that he would be better suited playing at the centre of the park. That said Eintracht head coach Niko Kovac will certainly be pleased that Salcedo can be used playing in various positions. Dynamic and quick despite his height Salcedo, in fact, will do well to replace Jesus Vallejo, who was recalled by Real Madrid following a fantastic season with Eintracht Frankfurt.
Cedric #21 – Portugal
For a moment it appeared that Southampton’s right back Cedric had scored the game winner. But then Hector Moreno equalised the scoreline in the dying minutes of Portugal’s matchday 1 game against Mexico. The 2-2 draw will have caused some concerns in Portugal’s camp. The European Champions, after all, believed that they would be the favourites against Mexico and have been tipped by some as the favourites to win this tournament.
Hence, while Cedric will be disappointed with the scoreline, he can certainly be pleased with his own game against Mexico, which made it easy to include him in our eight players to watch list. The scorer of the second goal was a constant threat going forward and at the same time handled himself well when having to backtrack against Mexico’s fast forward line. Born in Singen, Germany Cedric has now played for Southampton since 2015, and with talented right-backs, in high demand, it will only be a question of time until a big Premier League side will come calling.
Tomas Rogic #23 – Australia
Playing against world champions Germany on matchday 1 Australia were the significant underdog. But thanks to Thomas Rogic the Socceroos can now look back with pride. The Celtic Glasgow striker equalised Germany’s early lead in the 41st minute and remained a constant danger against a Germany side that very much struggled to find defensive stability.
Rogic managed seven goals in 22 games for Celtic in the Scottish Premiership last season. With Australia now in the international spotlight thanks to high-profile games against Germany as well as Chile Rogic can show that he can perform on an even bigger stage. A flexible attacking player Rogic can play both up front, but also as a trequartista behind the main target man.
Leon Goretzka #8 – Germany
Joachim Löw is a big fan of Leon Goretzka, and the Schalke 04 midfielder almost played his first tournament in 2014 when he was included in Germany’s preliminary squad for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. Hampered by an injury Goretzka was cut. He then was excluded from the Euro 2016 squad and instead captained Germany at the Olympics where he had to leave the team after just one game thanks to a shoulder injury.
But following a great year with Schalke Goretzka is very much set to make his mark on Germany’s national team. A dynamic midfielder, who has a bit of Michael Ballack about him, Goretzka is a perfect box-to-box midfielder with the ability to finish off attacking plays himself. This has been particularly evident on matchday 1 where Goretzka scored a magnificent goal against Australia. Given his outstanding season at Schalke and his new status at the national team, it is no surprise that Bayern München have expressed their interest and Goretzka is likely to join the Bavarians no later than the summer of 2018.
Manuel Veth is a freelance journalist and social media editor at Bundesliga.com. He is also a holder of a Doctorate of Philosophy in History from King’s College London, and his thesis is titled: “Selling the People’s Game: Football’s transition from Communism to Capitalism in the Soviet Union and its Successor States,” which will be available in print soon. Originally from Munich, Manuel has lived in Amsterdam, Kyiv, Moscow, Tbilisi, London, and currently is located in Victoria BC, Canada. Follow Manuel on Twitter @ManuelVeth.