Confederations Cup Diary: Transfer talk gets Santos laughing and why you should never lose a Mexico 'rondo'
With semi-final preparation in full swing, you'd be forgiven for thinking that all four remaining teams at the Confederations Cup would very much be taking life seriously.
That did not seem to be the case on day 11, with Mexico in high spirits in training and Portugal boss Fernando Santos finding the funny side of transfer talk surrounding Adrien Silva.
There was also a brusque moment between Shkodran Mustafi and a Russian reporter and a taste of what's to come when Pizzi meets Pizzi at Kazan Arena.
MEXICO STARS CRASH DOWN TO EARTH
Mexico were boosted by the sight of striker Javier Hernandez overcoming muscular fatigue to play a full part in their training session in Adler, two days out from facing Germany at Fisht Stadium.
Concerns over other injuries did not seem to be high on the agenda of his team-mates – certainly no higher than general horseplay.
Spirits were definitely up among Juan Carlos Osorio's squad, who demonstrated their unusual ritual of how they deal with the loser in a mass game of 'rondos' to the assembled media.
The unfortunate in question is playfully roughed up a bit before being picked up by his team-mates and unceremoniously dropped on the turf.
Osorio, for his part, was diligently placing out practice cones at the time and did not seem in the least bit concerned. He is, of course, a fan of squad rotation…
— Dom Farrell (@DomFarrell1986) June 27, 2017
TWO-FOR-ONE PIZZIS AT KAZAN ARENA
Wednesday's semi-final between Portugal and Chile brings together a rather unlikely pair of namesakes.
Portugal midfielder Luis Miguel Afonso Fernandes is more commonly known as Pizzi, a name he adopted after watching Juan Antonio Pizzi in his days as a striker for Porto.
The Chile coach has met the Benfica midfielder once before on Spanish radio but he admitted that it will be an enjoyable experience to come face-to-face with him again.
"I read it in the press when he started playing because somebody asked if he was related to me – which is not the case, by the way!" he said.
"He said why he got that name as a player. We were both interviewed once for Spanish radio but it was a long time ago. I'd like to see him and say hello again. I feel a sort of special appreciation because he's using my name for his football career."
KAZAN'S CULTURAL CAULDRON HIGHLIGHTS FIFA'S WAY FORWARD
As this diary – and half-a-dozen tourism pamphlets – have explained before, Kazan means 'cauldron' in the old Tatar dialect and it's a fitting name for a city with such a cultural blend.
A balance of Russian and Tatarstan citizenry, along with close to 100 other foreign nationalities, live in a vibrant area that is almost split down the middle between followers of Islam and the Russian Orthodox church.
The Kazan Kremlin, a world heritage site that houses the 16th-century Annunciation Cathedral and the Kol Sharif Mosque, is a stunning example of the city's harmony – one that many visitors would perhaps be surprised to encounter, both this year and at the World Cup.
FIFA's Football for Hope forum, where delegates have discussed the game's role as a tool for social development, concludes in Kazan on Wednesday. It's a fitting home for such a talk.
— Joe Wright (@JoeWright004) June 27, 2017
SHKO SCARPERS FROM RUSSIAN SCRIBE
Spare a thought for the Russian press pack still on the Confederations Cup beat.
Sochi was on course to host a Russia semi-final until Mexico completed a 2-1 comeback win in their final group match to dump the hosts out.
A journalist covering Germany's training session opposite Fisht Stadium on Tuesday morning was scratching around for the local angle, but Arsenal defender Shkodran Mustafi was not exactly receptive to his efforts.
Having detailed the events of his day off in Sochi (he didn't do much) and analysed who is better out of Russia or Mexico (it's difficult to say), Mustafi was asked if he knew some Russian players and turned to Germany's press officer.
"Okay, finished?" he asked before scarpering through the barrier and on to the training pitch. Never has a hulking centre-back appeared so enthusiastic about the prospect of sprinting drills in 30 degree heat.
— Dom Farrell (@DomFarrell1986) June 27, 2017
SANTOS SEES THE FUNNY SIDE AS RUMOUR MILL KEEPS ON GRINDING
Pretty much every player at these finals who is being linked with a transfer has had the same response when it comes to any such questions.
Alexis Sanchez, Marcelo Diaz, Arturo Vidal and more have all been asked about rumours surrounding the future of themselves or their team-mates, and all have produced slight variations of the response: "My focus is on the national team."
Adrien Silva was the latest to be met with such a query but the timing of it certainly seemed to tickle his boss, with a Sky Sports reporter enquiring about Tottenham interest just moments after the midfielder was asked for his thoughts on life in Russia.
With Santos chuckling away, Silva composed his thoughts for a moment, then replied: "As I told you, I'm concentrated and focused on doing my best for Portugal."
Oh well, it was worth a go.