Confederations Cup Diary: Mexico win MediaBowl, Beasejour is our new best friend and everyone loves free goat's milk
Day seven of the Confederations Cup allowed us to take part in more media excursions and the all-important promise of free food (just don't tell Fernando Santos).
Tatarstan desserts after an island tour, free goat produce in Sochi and a traditional folk dance in a car park all made for one of the more unusual days so far.
Out on the pitch, Russia lost their crucial showdown with Mexico (well, sort of), and Jean Beausejour showed the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo and Alexis Sanchez that politeness goes a long way.
MEXICO EDGE OUT RUSSIA AS REPORTERS SWAP TRIBUNE FOR TURF
Nothing unites quite like a game of football, even 24 hours before a match between your countries that will decide their Confederations Cup fate.
That's just what happened in Kazan, though. Teams of Russian and Mexican media workers – featuring a Spaniard and an Irishman – took to a local pitch to face off in a showdown that will live long in the memory of the two-ish strong crowd that witnessed it.
It was a good-natured but hard-fought encounter that finished 2-1 to Mexico and instilled some belief that the professional players can do a similar job when they face the host nation at Kazan Arena on Saturday.
— Joe Wright (@JoeWright004) June 23, 2017
BEAUSEJOUR BREAKS THE MOULD OF RESTRICTIVE POST-GAME PRESS
Trying to speak to certain players after matches has proved to be a real problem at the Confederations Cup.
Cristiano Ronaldo has twice refused to answer questions in a man-of-the-match news conference and was escorted through the waiting journalists and out of the building by FIFA officials in Kazan last week.
Alexis Sanchez didn't want to talk about his future when Omnisport popped the question on Thursday and he, too, walked briskly through the media mixed zone without stopping to talk.
That's why Jean Beausejour might just be our new favourite player. As the journalist scrum chased in vain after Sanchez, the Chile wing-back strolled nonchalantly through the room in some quite bizarre head gear and, after waiting patiently, actually asked if we had any questions.
We had one, at least: why can't all footballers be like you, Jean?
CREAM OF THE CROP COMES TO SOCHI
The Sochi Autodrom, home of Formula One's Russian Grand Prix, serves as the secondary non-accredited media centre in Sochi for the Confederations Cup.
On Friday it laid on a spread of free food and drink produced in the Kuban region and, as mentioned previously in this diary, journalists tend not to need a second invitation for this sort of thing.
First up was Inga Eksarko, promoting her eponymous farm and creamery that lies 500 metres above sea level. Tasty samples of hard and soft goat's cheese were served alongside glasses of goat's milk. The benefits of gulping down Eksarko's organic produce was trumpeted at length.
Next, on to Sochi's favourite brand of tea, Matsesta. Interpreter Yuri recommended his favourite thyme infused flavour and that went down a refreshing treat. The region's unique ecology means the surrounding area is idea for growing tea leaves without the need for pesticides, with the cold winters acting as a natural deterrent against pesky bugs.
Not for the first time on this trip, traditional Russian dress featured, although leaving with a complimentary pint of goat's milk is a new one.
Agriculture in Russia benefitted from a slew of investment since the federal government banned the import of dairy, meat and fish products from Europe and other western countries in retaliation to sanctions imposed over its actions in Ukraine in 2014.
Winning in Sochi with free milk and cheese. Can't hold a candle to this guy's outfit, mind. pic.twitter.com/kpVMIH1cY1
— Dom Farrell (@DomFarrell1986) June 23, 2017
SIGHTSEEING STRUGGLES SADDEN SANTOS
Portugal boss Fernando Santos has bemoaned the schedule of this tournament, claiming matches every 72 hours place an unfair burden on his stars after a gruelling season with their clubs.
However, speaking ahead of the European champions' Group A meeting with New Zealand in St Petersburg, renaissance man Santos possibly revealed the real source of his frustration.
"It's the sixth time I've been in St Petersburg," he ventured reminiscently. "It's a fascinating, beautiful city. It's one of the most beautiful cities I've known with a fantastic history. But I'm working, I can't make the most of sightseeing opportunities."
To make matters worse, he has Zenit defender Luis Neto in his squad and the centre-back would probably have made the perfect tour guide.
"I feel at home here," he said alongside his boss. "The players have been curious and asked questions about the city. We haven't had time to do an excursion but they like what they have seen and I've naturally helped where I can."
HIGH KICKS APLENTY IN KAZAN CAR PARK
There might be only two more matches to be played in Kazan at these finals but the locals have made sure that entertainment levels have stayed high.
On Friday, a traditional folk dance troupe performed a two-minute segment of kicks, spins, back-flips and whistles – all in costume – while a flashy accordionist maintained the beat.
What makes the performance all-the-more impressive is that it took place next to the media shuttle departure point in the car park of the Kazan Arena. Bravo!
Earlier at Kazan Arena, we got treated to the best car park dance routine since Chris O'Dowd in Cuban Fury. pic.twitter.com/t0bNQQtlBi
— Joe Wright (@JoeWright004) June 23, 2017