Infantino: Not time to think about future of Confed Cup

St. Petersburg, June 18 (IANS): Hosts Russia defeated New Zealand 2-0 in the Group A opening match of the 2017 FIFA Confederations Cup football tournament here on Saturday.

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On the half-hour mark, Russian spectators celebrated ecstatically long after Fedor Smolov's controlled finish was judged offside.

"We can play much better and perform much more skilled football than we showed today and we made too many mistakes".

Smolov then doubled his country's lead after starting and finishing a free-flowing move in the 69th minute.

With Putin no doubt starting to shift uneasily in his seat, Russian Federation finally broke the deadlock after 31 minutes - Denis Glushakov's delicate chip over the advancing Marinovic bundled over the line with FIFA crediting unfortunate New Zealand defender Michael Boxall with the final touch.

"I liked New Zealand's team, but luckily we managed to cancel out their strengths and displayed ours", Cherchesov said.

The other two Group A teams include European champions Portugal spearheaded by the global superstar Cristiano Ronaldo and the most decorated CONCACAF team Mexico.

Russian Federation made a rapid start, with Aleksandr Golovin having a drive unconvincingly dealt with by New Zealand goalkeeper Stefan Marinovic, before the hosts were twice denied by goal-line clearances.

New Zealand had their first major chance in the 78th minute.

Boxall admitted it "took the life out of us a bit" to gift the opening goal with a defensive error. Yet if they had wanted an uncomplicated opener in which to introduce their country to the wider world ahead of next year's World Cup on home soil, the Kiwis offered the ideal opponents. And we've took the full-scale measures to assure the event's security.

"Here, on modern football arenas there will be tough, honest, fair fight until the last minutes of the match", Putin said in Russian, adding that the eight-team, two-week event would "unite nations and continents, to promote the values of fair and attractive play".

What he was sure about, however, was how important mentally regrouping would be after it had been so "disheartening" to not put in a satisfactory performance.

"The second goal, I thought we did a lot better winning the ball higher up the pitch but I think we dropped off at the wrong time". That didn't happen tonight. They won the title as hosts in 1999 thanks to a thrilling 4-3 win against Brazil in the final, and are the only previous winners of the trophy among the teams at Russian Federation 2017. Nailing that press and tidying up when we have the ball.

  • Julie Sanders