New Zealand v Portugal: Pepe urges Selecao to be faithful to their style

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Portugal defender Pepe wants his team-mates to remain faithful to the methods that won them Euro 2016 after further criticism of their playing style at the Confederations Cup.

The Selecao were surprise winners in France last year but still attracted barbs for a perceived defensive mindset - a stereotype they have since found hard to shift.

Coach Fernando Santos bristled when quizzed on the subject in the build-up to Portugal's 1-0 win over Russia in Moscow on Wednesday and centre-back Pepe, who is without a club contract for next season after leaving Real Madrid, was equally forthright.

The 34-year-old said: "We have to be ourselves, ignore everyone else and be faithful to what has led us to win the European Championship. 

"We fight to do our best, to take the name of Portugal as far as possible, always respecting the opponents."

Portugal's 1-0 win over the hosts was built around a dominant first-half display, capped by Cristiano Ronaldo's far-post header after eight minutes. Russia rallied in the second half but rarely looked like finding an equaliser, with Pepe and central defensive partner Bruno Alves both turning in commanding performances.

The victory means Portugal require just a point from their clash with already-eliminated New Zealand in St Petersburg on Saturday.

Pepe added: "When we are here we want to do our best for a country that is tremendously supportive and humble. 

"That's what gives us pride in wearing this shirt. Each one gives his best to be in the starting XI. The coach wants everyone working the same way."

Portugal's position of strength in Group A is likely to mean Santos rotates his squad at the weekend, with captain Ronaldo set to be given the day off.

The Real Madrid striker was named man of the match against Russia by a starstruck crowd at Spartak Stadium but the standout player was undoubtedly Bernardo Silva, who shone on the right flank.

Silva, who will join Manchester City at the end of the month from French champions Monaco, revelled in his new position: 

"I was set free," he told FIFA.com.

"My coach and my team trusted in me to do what I was able to do at my club last season, so I'm really happy to have helped and I feel good about tonight."

Silva did not feature at Euro 2016 but is now a key component of a fluid midfield also containing William Carvalho, Adrien Silva and Andre Gomes.

He added: "Personally, I'm just really happy to be here, representing my country.

"But yes, it felt even better because it was a big game for Portugal. We really needed the three points and winning tonight put us in a very good position. I feel joy for the whole team and for having helped them win."

Portugal's midweek delight was in stark contrast to New Zealand's heartbreak at going down 2-1 to Mexico in Sochi.

The All Whites took the lead through Chris Wood but second-half strikes from Raul Jimenez and Oribe Peralta settle the game in the Gold Cup winners' favour.

 

Key Opta stats:

- This will be the first ever meeting between New Zealand and Portugal.
- Portugal are unbeaten in their last seven competitive matches, since a 2-0 loss to Switzerland in September 2016 (W6, D1).
- Portugal have also kept a clean sheet in nine of their last 13 games in all competitions, with only Switzerland, Latvia, Sweden and Mexico managing to find the net against them.
- New Zealand are now winless in 11 Confederations Cup games (D1 L10), finding the net just three times in total.
- The All Whites have lost each of their last four games in all competitions, their worst run since 2003 to 2004, when they lost five on the bounce.
- Cristiano Ronaldo is the only player to both score and assist a goal so far at this year's Confederations Cup.
- Following his strike against Russia, Ronaldo has now scored 54 goals in competitive football this season for club and country combined, 42 goals for Real Madrid and 12 for Portugal.