Published: Sun, June 18, 2017
Sport | By Cecil Buchanan

Russian Federation opens Confederations Cup with uninspiring win over New Zealand

Russian Federation opens Confederations Cup with uninspiring win over New Zealand

World champions Germany and the champions from FIFA's six confederations are competing in the two-week tournament that will allow Russian Federation to test its soccer infrastructure in four of the 11 cities hosting World Cup matches.

Hosts Russia eased to a 2-0 win over New Zealand on Saturday in the opening match of the Confederations Cup, a tournament seen as a test for the country before it stages next year's World Cup.

New Zealand did their best to push for a goal and were narrowly denied twice with a little more than 10 minutes to play but bright moments were rare for the visitors as Russian Federation remained on top in the closing stages. The European champion opens its Group A program on Sunday against Mexico in Kazan.

The All Whites had a penalty claim turned down for a handball by Vasin but Russian Federation sealed all three points as Smolov started and finished a swift passing move in the 69th minute to extended their unbeaten streak to four matches under Cherchesov.

It was the ideal start for the Russians in a game played at the new Krestovsky Stadium, where President Vladimir Putin and Federation Internationale de Football Association chief Gianni Infantino both gave speeches before kick-off.

Fyodor Smolov who was outstanding in the game got the second goal in the 69th minute.

The Russian president made it a national priority to win hosting rights for the 2018 World Cup in a fierce Federation Internationale de Football Association bidding contest seven years ago.

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"I believe we will have the same team as we did in this game against Portugal".

"When the president of your country comes out to make a speech this mobilizes us", Russian Federation coach Stanislav Cherchesov said through a translator.

Participants in the 2017 Confederations Cup are hosts Russian Federation, 2014 FIFA World Cup winners Germany, 2015 Copa America champions Chile, 2015 AFC Asian Cup champions Australia, 2015 Concacaf Gold Cup winners Mexico, 2016 UEFA Euro Cup champs Portugal, OFC (Oceania Football Confederation) Nations Cup victors New Zealand and 2017 CAF Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) champions Cameroon.

The All Whites survived until halftime but the largely one-sided nature of the match continued after the restart and in the 68th-minute a slick build-up resulted in an easy finish for striker Fedor Smolov at the back post when the Kiwi defence was again unable to clear a unsafe ball into the box.

Russian Federation deserved its first-half lead after twice having shots stopped on the line in the opening 10 minutes.

A chest-high pass to forward Dmitry Poloz was deftly guided into the path of Denis Glushakov who chipped the ball over onrushing goalkeeper Stefan Marinovic.

A Confederations Cup trophy, never mind a World Cup title, might be too much to ask even for Putin, But Saturday was a start.

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