Russian Federation get off to winning start, beat New Zealand — FIFA Confederations Cup

Doug Mendoza
June 18, 2017

If every host nation could handpick its opponent for the opening game of a major tournament, New Zealand would be close to the top of the list, and Russian Federation did not pass up the opportunity to make a winning start to the Confederations Cup against Oceania's champions.

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.

In front of Vladimir Putin, Russia cruised to a 2-0 victory in the $1.4 billion Krestovsky Stadium. But who are the group favourites, key men, and leaders of these four nations, as they bid for global glory just 12 months before the 2018 World Cup gets underway?

The Confederations Cup precedes the World Cup by a year to guarantee that the facilities and provisions of the host country are ready.

A Moscow-based hotline providing legal support for fans says many Russians had IDs granted which were canceled hours before Russia's opening game against New Zealand, making their tickets useless. In their opener the Chileans meet African champions Cameroon, who return to this competition for the first time since 2003 when Marc Vivian Foe tragically collapsed against Colombia in the semi-final and died.

But this was Putin's show.

The Russian team is playing its next match against Portugal at Spartak Arena in Moscow on June 21.

For Russia, ranked 63rd in the world - between Scotland and Albania - it was a case of laying a platform and easing the pressure, although Cherchesov was insistent that pressure is not an issue for him and his squad.

"We achieved a very good result and at times a very good game".

"I believe we will have the same team as we did in this game against Portugal". "I'm happy to play with my captain".

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Cherchesov felt president Putin's pre-match speech which ended with the proclamation, "Dear friends, let us watch football!"

Cristiano Ronaldo will lead Portugal, who possess a fine mix of youngsters and veterans, and benefit from the guidance of the savvy Fernando Santos.

The European champions will open the Group A program on Sunday against Mexico in Kazan.

A source claims Ronaldo "feels great indignation" with all the conjecture about his tax affairs and a sense of "injustice" at the allegations - which he contests - and has made a decision to leave Spain. There are totally two groups and each one have four teams.

Federation Internationale de Football Association general secretary Fatma Samoura said on Friday that the estimated attendance for the tournament would be 65 percent, and that Russia's match against European champions Portugal had been sold out for weeks. "He is an idol, even for us players", admitted veteran defender Bruno Alves, the 35-year-old who has just signed for Scottish club Rangers.

Federation Internationale de Football Association will for the first time also implement a three-step procedure that allow referees to stop matches in the event of racist or discriminatory incidents - a new measure Deputy Prime Minister Vitaly Mutko welcomed as the "absolute right decision".

Russian Federation began their Confederations Cup campaign in flawless fashion with a 2-0 win over New Zealand on Saturday night.

Playing in the tournament for the first time, Russian Federation were on the front foot and had two early chances cleared off the line in the opening 10 minutes.

When the goal came, it had an ugly finish after two pretty pieces of individual skill once the All-Whites defense needlessly lost the ball.

Dmitry Poloz then went down under a challenge from New Zealand goalkeeper Stefan Marinovic in the area, but the Colombian referee waved away the penalty appeals and there was no intervention from the video assistant.

Other reports by GizPress

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