Russia eases to Confederations Cup win over New Zealand

Russian President Vladimir Putin is expected to attend the opening match of the Federation Internationale de Football Association 2017 Confederations Cup in St. Petersburg on Saturday, which will see Russia host New Zealand.

It was the ideal start for the Russians in a game played at the new Krestovsky Stadium, where President Vladimir Putin and Federation Internationale de Football Association chief Gianni Infantino both gave speeches before kick-off. "We have a very, very good team, we have some good players in our team and the objective for us is to do something significant", he said.

Putin had also asked Russia's players to perform like warriors, though they hardly needed to be war-like in dispatching No. 95 New Zealand, which seemed to find the world stage too big. "We know they are top teams, but we are a strong team and we are going there focused on ourselves and the task at hand". "We could have been more aggressive".

Russia's win eases the pressure on winning its second game, against Cristiano Ronaldo's Portugal in Moscow on Wednesday. However, one veteran team is drawing special attention - Mexico is playing against Portugal on Sunday's much-anticipated game. "Welcome to Russian Federation!" - inspired his players.

"The clashes between the fans in Marseille a year ago were ugly", Alexei Sorokin, the chief executive officer of Russia's organising committee, told AFP in a recent interview.

Alexander Yerokhin sparked the attack with an interception around 30 yards from goal, and his pass was helped on by Poloz into the path of Denis Glushakov. Michael Boxall got a touch on the ball and was credited with an own goal.

Russian Federation were on the front foot and had two early chances cleared off the line in the opening 10 minutes.

From Russia's fourth corner, defender Viktor Vasin's header saw the ball spin off a post and across the goalmouth before Michael McGlinchey cleared.

Stoke City legend Alan Hudson could never have imagined he would get so excited about a game between Russian Federation and New Zealand in St Petersburg.

A bombing in the St. Petersburg metro that left 16 dead in April has also triggered fears that a similar attack could hit Russian Federation during the tournament.

"When the president of your country comes out to make a speech this mobilizes us", said coach Stanislav Cherchesov, a former goalkeeper who played for the national team before and after the fall of communism.

They salvaged an impressive 3-3 draw with Belgium, but that followed a 2-0 home defeat to Ivory Coast - Russia's first loss to an African team - and a humiliating 2-1 defeat to Qatar.

  • Julie Sanders