Soccer Fans Eagerly Await Start of FIFA Confederations Cup 2017
Mexico's Carlos Vela, left, celebrates with teammate Mexico's Hirving Lozano after scoring his team's first goal against the U.S. during their World Cup soccer qualifying match at Azteca Stadium in Mexico City, Sunday, June 11, 2017.(AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell)Rebecca Blackwell / AP
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“The Confederations Cup gives us a taste of what to expect the following year with the World Cup,” said Ronny Suarez, a soccer fan Hillsborough, New Jersey, rooting for Chile this year. “This is something I look forward to every four years. I usually watch them at my house with my family and some of my soccer players,” said Suarez, who also runs his own soccer club. “We also set up [the FIFA video game] on another TV to play during halftime.”
Over the next two weeks, eight teams will compete for international bragging rights and an opportunity to qualify for next year’s World Cup. However, one veteran team is drawing special attention — Mexico is playing against Portugal on Sunday's much-anticipated game.
Mexico has appeared at six of the nine FIFA Confederations Cup tournaments to date, and is the only contender in this year’s tournament that has held champion status. In 1999, Mexico took home the trophy after a 4-3 victory against Brazil. The team qualified for the World Cup in a 2-1 victory against the United States last November, and will make its Confederations Cup debut on Sunday.
Stacked against Mexico is Portugal’s star player Cristiano Ronaldo, who is the first player in FIFA history to win The Best FIFA Men’s Player Award, “the highest individual player award in world [soccer]” according to FIFA.
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But Mexican players are not letting Ronaldo's iconic status dominate their strategy.
“It’s Portugal, not just Cristiano,” said Mexican goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa after Wednesday’s training in Kazan, Russia. “We know what type of player he is, but aside from him there are other quality players that we have to stop.”
Mexico, despite boasting a better Confederations Cup track record than Portugal, is being considered as the underdog going into Sunday's match. However, this hasn't deterred the hope of Mexican fans, and many are looking to just enjoy a good game between two star-studded teams alongside their family and friends.
When asked about Sunday's match, soccer fan Daniel Alarcón, 29, of Denver, Colorado said that he "has to believe" Mexico will win the match, though Portugal is a very strong team and Ronaldo is having a great year.
"The majority of Mexico's starters play in Europe and compete at a high level, so I believe we have what it takes to bring down the current European champs!" he said.
Alarcón, like other fútbol fans, has a pregame ritual before games.
"My family is all getting together — we usually invite other family and friends over for a "carne asada". Every game is a reason for us to get together and cheer for our Mexico lindo y querido!"
You can stream the games for free on our sister network Telemundo Deportes livestream link here.
Telemundo's exclusive, Spanish-language coverage of the tournament starts at 9 a.m. ET on Saturday. The Portugal v Mexico is on Sunday, June 18, at 11 a.m. ET.
NBC News' Marissa Armas contributed to this report.