By The Rex Factor
If the World Cup in Russia next summer plays to Hoyle, there will be interesting games in each of the eight quarterfinals once the field gets chopped in half from 32 to 16.
The Confederations Cup is a virtual dry run for the World Cup, but the teams who were supposed to advance out of Group A and B to the semifinals in the eight-team event are still alive.
Portugal won Group A, and Mexico placed second after beating the host Russians on Saturday. On Sunday, Germany and Chile punched their respective tickets to the semis.
The Portuguese, winners of the 2016 European Championship, drew Mexico 1-1 in their opener before edging Russia 1-0 and mauling New Zealand 4-0. In that event, Portugal played to three group stage draws. In the knockout stage, Portugal had to go 120 minutes to win two games and to penalties to another. The 2-0 triumph over Wales was the only triumph in 90 minutes, so them beating Russia and getting a win in regulation earlier in the week took the pressure off. Portugal simply overwhelmed the All Blacks Saturday after getting the first goal on a penalty kick after 32 minutes.
Portugal will be facing Chile on Wednesday in the first semifinal in Kazan. Kickoff is on Fox Sports 1 in the United States and will be at 2 p.m. Eastern time. The Chileans will enter the match as an underdog at AmericasBookie and other sportsbooks in Las Vegas and offshore, but they certainly won't fancy themselves in that role. Chile won the Copa America in 2015 on home soil to qualify for this event, then decided to win the Copa America Centenariao in the USA last summer for giggles. In that event, Chile lambasted Mexico by a 7-0 count.
Those two were on course to meet in the semis until Chile was only able to play Australia to a 1-1 draw in the final group stage game Sunday. That result, coupled with Germany's 3-1 triumph over 10-man Cameroon, sent the Germans to the top of Group B.
Chile played in the World Cup in 2014, Copa America in 2015, the aforementioned US Copa last summer, the Confederations Cup this summer. They'll likely be in the World Cup in 2018 and have another Copa America in 2019; that will mark six straight summers of action for the standout players on Chile, who are in their golden era. The depth for Chile is lacking, which is not the case for some other top sides in the world. Chile and Portugal will be fielding A-sides.
That isn't necessarily the case for Germany and Mexico, the other two semifinalists who meet on Thursday in Sochi (2 p.m. EDT, Fox Sports 2 in the states). Germany sent a few guys who could play next summer on the team that will try to defend their 2014 World Cup, but it's largely a B-side. Mexico has so many players of good but not great quality that they could literally field four sides and play a round-robin among themselves, with any of the four teams winning. There's just very little separation among the top players, but the Mexicans will be an underdog even with Juan Carlos Osorio fielding his best 11 against a second-tier German side. Osorio is likely itching for a rematch with Chile, but he'd rather it come in the final.
That's because there's a third-place game for the losers of these matches earlier on Sunday in Moscow. The final is Sunday evening (afternoon in the USA) in St. Petersburg.