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

19 June 2017

Russian Federation kicked off their Confederations Cup Group A campaign in style as they cruised to a 2-0 victory over New Zealand in St Petersburg.

The opening day of the Confederations Cup saw hosts Russian Federation take on New Zealand in St Petersburg.

But empty seats remain a concern, with Russia's Sport Express reporting that some tickets were being handed out to state workers for free in a bid to fill the stands at an upcoming Confederations Cup match in Kazan.

"We don't get a lot of opportunities to play against top teams, so this has been an unbelievable experience for us, and we're going to learn a lot from this game".

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Just seconds later, Smith headed the resulting corner from McGlinchey towards goal but Russian Federation somehow managed to scramble the ball off the line.

Russia's win eases the pressure on winning its second game, against Cristiano Ronaldo's Portugal in Moscow on Wednesday.

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.

Russian Federation deserved its first-half lead after twice having shots stopped on the line in the opening 10 minutes.

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Mohammad Hafeez, not out on 57, and Babar Azam, out caught after making 46, were also major contributors in the final score of 338.

Cherchesov's men were too strong for a limited New Zealand side and were unlucky not to take an early lead, Viktor Vasin heading against the post from an Alexander Samedov corner, with Michael McGlinchey clearing off the line. Tommy Smith then tidied up when Poloz poked a close-range shot slowly past Marinovic.

Shprygin, who had been deported from France a year ago during the European Championship, said he had been notified by Confederations Cup organisers that his fan-ID, needed to attend matches, had been cancelled.

"First of all, let me express gratitude to [FIFA President] Gianni Infantino for being committed to the sport ideals and for helping in the preparations of this landmark event", Putin said at the opening ceremony of the cup.

Russia's victory showed it can win a big game at home, even if Putin is in the arena. The competition serves as a warm-up for the World Cup, played out a year before the sport's largest event.

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