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

Fedor Smolov (R) celebrates after scoring Russia's second goal during the Confederations Cup Group "A" match against New Zealand at the Krestovsky Stadium on Saturday.

Russian Federation cruised to a comfortable 2-0 win over New Zealand as the hosts made a confident start to the Confederations Cup.

The controversy may subside for the time being, as Mexico prepare to face a New Zealand side ranked 95 in the world before an expectedly sparse crowd in Sochi.

It was the former who made the difference.

Russian Federation coach Stanislav Cherchesov said his team were "mobilised" by a pregame speech from President Vladimir Putin ahead of their 2-0 FIFA Confederations Cup win over New Zealand on Saturday.

In a group containing Mexico and Portugal as the other two teams, it could be crucial.

The 68,000-seater St Petersburg Stadium will be a flagship venue at next year's World Cup and the home of Russian powerhouse Zenit, but its decade-long construction marred by corruption allegations and delays has caused more disappointment than satisfaction.

The All Whites now travel to Sochi to face world No.17 Mexico early on Thursday (NZT), and Hudson says they'll be a better team for the hit-out against Russian Federation.

Although New Zealand proved they could also be unsafe on a few occasions, Russian Federation clearly dominated the game from start to finish. As they slid, one of them - Michael Boxall - turned it in to send the Krevstovsky wild with delight.

If Juan Carlos Osorio's side are to earn a comfortable win that will give them the best chance of advancing to the semi-finals, they need to get ahead early.

The FIFA 2018 World Cup will be held on June 14-July 15 2018 in the cities of Moscow, St Petersburg, Sochi, Kazan, Ekaterinburg, Kaliningrad, Nizhny Novgorod, Rostov-on-Don, Samara, Saransk, and Volgograd.

Poloz was replaced on the hour, but Russia's waves of attack were not quelled and it was Smolov who finally doubled the hosts' lead when Boxall failed to clear Alexander Samedov's low cross.

Young manager Anthony Hudson will once again look to Chris Wood to finish off any half-chances as New Zealand will try to frustrate Mexico and hit them on the break and from set pieces.

"I don't know how it was to play on, but judging by the game it seemed the quality (of the pitch) was rather good". As such, I'm expecting a gritty game, but one that Portugal shouldn't have too many issues winning to potentially move top of Group A.

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.

Chile's star player Arturo Vidal fiercely argued with referee Damir Skomina when a goal scored in first-half stoppage time by Eduardo Vargas was overruled nearly one minute later.

  • Joanne Flowers