ST. PETERSBURG, Russia (AP) – Host nation Russia beat a poor New Zealand team 2-0 on Saturday to open the Confederations Cup with a win that was all but demanded by Vladimir Putin.
New Zealand, meanwhile, were finding it tough to hold maintain possession of the ball, which led to a lack of chances.
Fedor Smolov celebrates scoring Russia’s second goal.
But New Zealand’s resistence was eventually broken 20 minutes from the end, when Fedor Smolov tapped in Alexander Samedov’s low cross from the right to put the result beyond doubt and give Russian Federation an ideal start to the tournament.
The All Whites did look livelier in the closing stages, but Russian Federation managed to hold out to keep the clean sheet.
Portugal face Mexico at the Kazan Arena while Cameroon and Chile will meet at the Otkritie Arena in Moscow.
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.
The Confederations Cup precedes the World Cup by a year to guarantee that the facilities and provisions of the host country are ready.
Russia’s opening goal had an ugly finish after two pretty pieces of individual skill once the All-Whites defense needlessly lost the ball. The first warning sign for New Zealand came in the seventh minute when Michael McGlinchley was forced to hack off the line after Viktor Vasin’s header came back off the inside of the post. We played the match we have been planning for.
After this match, New Zealand are now without a win in 10 Confed Cup matche.
“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.
This year’s tournament is held between June 17 and July 2 at four stadiums in Russian Federation and they are Spartak Stadium in Moscow, St. Petersburg Stadium, Fisht Stadium in Sochi and the Kazan Arena in Kazan.
But Russia would eventually find a game-clinching second goal. He prefers ice hockey and saw a team that carried fervent hopes of an Olympic title lose on home ice in the quarterfinals at the 2014 Sochi Olympics.