NZ fall to Russia in Cup opener

Lynette Rowe
June 21, 2017

The FIFA chief said he wanted to note the remarkable level of the infrastructure preparation in Russian Federation for the 2017 FIFA Confederations Cup and the 2018 FIFA World Cup.

The opening match of the Fifa Confederations Cup, between the two lowest-ranked nations at this month's tournament, was no glamour tie, yet the hosts will have few complaints after comfortably beating lowly New Zealand 2-0 yesterday at St Petersburg Arena.

Following Saturday's 2-2 draw with Portugal, Mexico are upbeat and favourites to win the showdown in Sochi.

"Obviously in the first game of the tournament we wanted to get a better result than we did", New Zealand manager Anthony Hudson said.

New Zealand were more competitive in a 2-1 loss in Nashville previous year, a game in which the Mexicans were knocked off their stride by some effective pressing defence.

"We recognise in New Zealand a strong team with a very good in the aerial game", he said. "Mexico are a world-class side and we're the smallest team in the competition".

That's the assessment of defender Tommy Smith, who admits their second group match against the Mexicans in Sochi on Thursday (NZT) has a sudden-death status following the 2-0 loss to Russian Federation.

"The game didn't go how we wanted", he said afterwards.

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"We've worked hard and I believe now we're well-prepared for the opening game", Zenit midfielder Igor Smolnikov told Russian TV.

Goalkeeper Stefan Marinovic, who faces a busy night against the likes of ex-Manchester United striker Javier Hernandez, believes New Zealand can pull off an upset.

"There is no point in us being here if we're not trying to win".

After a 21st minute free kick taken by Cristiano Ronaldo struck the wall, the ball was sent back into the area where four Portugal players were in offside positions and one of them challenged for the ball, meaning he was offside.

"We think we have a great chance tomorrow".

Tommy Smith captained New Zealand in the 2013 World Cup playoff tie against Mexico.

Hudson though insists his players are raring to go in Russian Federation.

"We [also] know they can be risky if you give them time and space on the ball, so we're going to look to stop them from [having] that". "I don't know why this happened".

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