A guide to the 2017 Confederations Cup

Eight teams take part in a precursor to next year's World Cup

New Zealand, Russia, St Petersburg, Confederations Cup,

New Zealand players walk on the pitch prior to a training session at the St. Petersburg Stadium, Russia, Friday, June 16, 2017. New Zealand will play Russia in a Confederations Cup, Group A soccer match scheduled for Saturday, June 17. (AP Photo/Dmitri Lovetsky)

This time next year, the FIFA World Cup will be in the very early days of the group stage.

But as always, the host nation gets an opportunity to test the water so to speak and that's in the shape of the Confederations Cup.

Russia has had just under eight years to prepare for the 2018 World Cup after being announced as the winning bid back in December 2010.

First though eight countries will play in the Confederations Cup to give us our first proper glimpse of the stadiums in a tournament setting, with only four of the 12 venues to be used in 2018 being utilised this time.

Russia and New Zealand will kick off the Confederations Cup on Saturday evening and the 2017 competition. So which nations are involved this summer?

Group A

Just like next year's World Cup, hosts Russia will be in Group A and the country which struggled at Euro 2016 and World Cup 2014 face a tricky group.

Oceania's leading side New Zealand should not prove daunting but Euro 2016 holders Portugal have brought a strong squad including captain fantastic Cristiano Ronaldo, new Milan forward Andre Silva and Manchester City's newly acquired attacking midfielder Bernardo Silva.

CONCACAF champions Mexico recently beat Ireland 3-1 in New Jersey during a meaningless friendly but unlike the qualification campaign for 2014, the powerhouses of North and Central American football are coasting majestically towards the 2018 World Cup in their current qualifying group.

Given that the Confederations Cup is only a few notches above friendly pace, there are no clear favourites. But Mexico and Portugal would be favourites to advance on paper.

Fixtures

Russia vs New Zealand, June 17th

Portugal vs Mexico, June 18th

Russia vs Portugal, June 21st

Mexico vs New Zealand, June 21st

Mexico vs Russia, June 24th

New Zealand vs Portugal, June 24th

Group B

Reigning World Cup holders Germany have brought a weakened squad to Russia, with PSG's 23 year old winger Julian Draxler captaining a young panel.

Regular names like Manuel Neuer, Thomas Muller, Mesut Ozil, Toni Kroos, Jerome Boateng and Mats Hummels have all been rested as fringe and emerging players are given a chance to shine.

Alongside Germany in Group B are 2017 Africa Cup of Nations winners Cameroon, reigning Copa America champions Chile and Asian Cup holders Australia.

Chile have brought their biggest names like Arsenal star Alexis Sanchez, Man City keeper Claudio Bravo and Bayern Munich midfielder Arturo Vidal and will be among the favourites to go all the away, although their attention will be fixed on qualifying from the ultra competitive South American qualifying zone.

Fixtures

Cameroon vs Chile, June 18th

Australia vs Germany, June 19th 

Cameroon vs Australia, June 22nd 

Germany vs Chile, June 22nd

Germany vs Cameroon, June 25th

Chile vs Australia, June 25th