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Mexico handed easier group in Confederations Cup draw

Mexico gets the easier group but will still face a tough challenge.

Soccer: Mexico at USA Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Luck seemed to favor Mexico for the first time in a while as they got the easier group of the competition. Mexico got placed in Group A of the 2017 Confederations Cup in Saturday’s draw. While Mexico did get the easier group, there is a difference between "easier" and "easy". The group isn't easy and Mexico will have a hard time to get through in a tough competition.

Group A

Russia

New Zealand

Portugal

Mexico

Portugal v France - Final: UEFA Euro 2016 Photo by Matthias Hangst/Getty Images

Portugal

While the wish for a rematch with Australia or the wishes of most Mexicans with a rematch against Chile didn't happen, at least in the group stage, there is a great chance for a historic rematch against Portugal. The famous "Simpsons Clasico" is back and Mexico has a chance to make up for their devastating defeat in 2006. The game, of course, was in the World Cup where in a key match for Mexico they faced an already qualified Portugal and lost 2-1. Portugal rested many players, among them Cristiano Ronaldo, and still won, having Mexico qualify because of the result in the Iran/Angola game (1-1) in a terrible result.

Mexico would then face Portugal in the final friendly before the 2014 world cup, and although it was a friendly, the defeat was also heartbreaking. Mexico was the better team in the game and had the better chances, including a bad miss by Alan Pulido, but in the final minute, Bruno Alves headed in the goal for a 1-0 win to Portugal.

Just like in 2013, the first game will be the key game as it might set the tone of the group, depending on how Russia will do. This might be the first time that Mexico faces Cristiano Ronaldo, who didn’t play in Portugal’s past two victories over El Tri, and if the Euros are any indication, Portugal will be a tough defensive team. This is the kind of team that is troubling for Mexico, as a solid defensive structure has been the method of choice to stifle the team. On the other hand, Portugal's slow start almost eliminated them in one of the weakest groups in the Euros. Still, Mexico will need to hit the ground running if they don't want a repeat of Italy in the 2013 tournament.

Mexico v New Zealand Photo by Frederick Breedon/Getty Images

New Zealand

New Zealand is the weakest team in the tournament and also the only team in the group that Mexico has regularly faced, as recently as two months ago. Against New Zealand, Mexico's record has been all wins since their first and only defeat in 1980. Although New Zealand looked a lot better in their last match, the fact is that a full strength Mexico side should be able to defeat New Zealand. Nonetheless, as easy matches go, the fact that New Zealand is a tough physical team is something Mexico can't take for granted. Under normal circumstances, though, a Mexico win should be expected.

Russia v Wales - Group B: UEFA Euro 2016 Photo by Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images

Russia

The final game of the group will be against the host team Russia. The game might be the deciding game depending on previous results. While Mexico and Russia used to play a lot in past decades, the fact is that it's been more than 20 years since they faced each other.

It will be a new situation for Mexico, although results haven't been that great for Russia ,including a recent defeat at home to Costa Rica, and a home game against them in a very important match will be a huge hurdle. The best situation would be for Mexico to wrap the ticket to the next round before this match. Regardless, however, this might be the best test for Mexico, especially with the target of the World Cup.

At the end, Mexico has a tough group but they got the better outcome. Germany and Chile are better teams than any in Mexico's group and African sides are always terrible match-ups for El Tri. Still, the tournament will be tough, but this was expected and is something that Osorio and company wanted.