Hosts Russia Beat New Zealand 2-0 In FIFA Confed Cup Opener
In the tournament’s opening game at Saint Petersburg Stadium, hosts Russia defeated New Zealand 2-0 to get their FIFA 2017 Confederations Cup campaign off to a winning start.
President Vladimir Putin, FIFA chief Gianni Infantino and football legend Pele all in attendance, as Russia made the winning start to the tournament that was widely expected of them against a lower-ranked New Zealand team.
Russia coach Stanislav Cherchesov started with an attacking-style line-up and the decision paid off as Russia started the brighter of the two teams and put New Zealand under near-constant pressure in the opening exchanges.
After the New Zealand ‘All Whites’ had cleared off the line several times, the breakthrough for the hosts came on 31 minutes when midfielder Denis Glushakov raced through into the box and chipped the ball over Kiwi ‘keeper Stefan Marinovic. Several defenders rushed back to attempt to clear the ball, but after coming off the post it was bundled over the line by defender Michael Boxall.
The hosts continued to crank up the pressure after the break, forcing the impressive Marinovic into a fantastic double save, but Russian pressure finally told when Krasnodar striker Smolov – top scorer in the Russia Premier League for the past two seasons – tapped home from an Aleksandr Samedov cross on 69 minutes.
It was a game Russia were widely expected to win against a New Zealand team that are Oceania champions but are the lowest-ranked nation in the tournament. After the game, Russian coach Cherchesov said things went according to plan, and also said the team was happy with the stadium and the condition of the pitch – which had been a point of discussion before the game.
New Zealand will look to pick themselves up ahead of their next game against Mexico in Sochi’s Fisht Stadium on Wednesday, before returning to St. Petersburg for their last group game against Portugal on Saturday.