FIFA Confederations Cup: Hosts Russia see off New Zealand in opener

Lynette Rowe
June 19, 2017

ST. PETERSBURG, Russia (AP) - Host nation Russia beat a poor New Zealand team 2-0 on Saturday to open the Confederations Cup with a win that was all but demanded by Vladimir Putin.

Surrounded by officials FIFA President Gianni Infantino, third from left, seen during his visit to Media centre prior the Group A soccer match between Portugal and Mexico, at the Kazan Arena, Russia, Sunday, June 18, 2017.

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.

"We coped with the task before us", Cherchesov said.

Hosts Russia, who drew with Copa America champions Chile 1-1 in a friendly last week, slipped to a record low 63rd in Federation Internationale de Football Association world rankings this month.

The Krestovsky Stadium was late in opening and came home well over budget, while serious problems have been experienced with the playing surface.

But the pitch survived without noticeable damage.

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"This is a magnificent opportunity as a group to compete against a team from the worldwide elite", said Osorio of the Portugal game in Saturday's news conference.

"I liked New Zealand's team but luckily we managed to cancel out their strengths and displayed ours, and that was the key to our win tonight", Cherchesov said.

The issue of racism against fans and hooliganism is also a concern after ugly clashes between Russian and English fans at Euro 2016 in Marseille last summer.

Russian Federation were under pressure before the match began with the country's President Vladimir Putin in the gallery.

Russian authorities insist that the Confederations Cup's ticketing system, which requires ticket holders to apply for a personalised fan-ID, ensures that all fans are screened and troublemakers are kept away. He also congratulated the local Organizing Committee, the Russian Football Union and all those who had taken efforts to hold the Confederations Cup. "It is most important that the preparedness for the Confederations Cup has been positively assessed by the Federation Internationale de Football Association representatives".

The group's second game was no less controversial after two VAR decisions.

FIFA Secretary General Fatma Samoura said Russia's readiness had "surpassed expectations".

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