Putin present to see Russia kick off Confederations Cup

Russia New Zealand primed for Confederations Cup opener in Saint Petersburg

FRANCK FIFE AFP

New Zealand is now without a win in four trips to the Confederations Cup, and next plays Mexico on Wednesday in Sochi.

(AP Photo/Thanassis Stavrakis). Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo plays with the ball during a training session at Kazan Arena in Kazan, Russia, on Saturday, June 17, 2017.

Putin said this week he expected Russian Federation to play like warriors and that fans expected better results from the world's No. 63-ranked team.

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

If the message was not crystal clear for the host team, Putin was in attendance in St Petersburg to ensure first-hand his words were heeded.

Russian President Vladimir Putin was among an expected 60,000-plus crowd in a $750 million new stadium.

Russia's Denis Glushakov, top, chips the ball over New Zealand goalkeeper Stefan Marinovic to score the opening goal during the Confederations, Cup Group A soccer match between Russian Federation and New Zealand, at the St.Petersburg st.

Smolov's goal was rightly ruled offside before Russian Federation took the lead on 31 minutes.

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The one-way traffic continued after the break, Marinovic denying Poloz and Aleksandr Erokhin with a fine double save.

The second goal arrived 20 minutes before the final whistle, the goalkeeper of "Krasnodar" CSKA Moscow after a cross from the flank was scored on the empty goal.

Despite the victory, and the largely impressive nature of it, no one should get carried away for Cherchesov has an almighty job on.

What is the Confederations Cup?

Participants in the 2017 Confederations Cup are hosts Russian Federation, 2014 FIFA World Cup Champions Germany, 2015 Copa America Champions Chile, 2015 AFC Asian Cup Champion 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 Champion Cameroon.

The news of his possible departure attracted the attention of global media covering Portugal at the eight-nation competition that serves as a warm-up for next year's World Cup.

Bigger tests await - both in the short and long-term - but this was a very small step in the right direction.

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