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Russian Federation topple New Zealand in opening fixture of FIFA Confederations Cup

19 June 2017

A SuperSport United defender scored an own goal, as Russian Federation claimed a 2-0 win over New Zealand to begin their FIFA Confederations Cup campaign with three points.

New Zealand, meanwhile, were finding it tough to hold maintain possession of the ball, which led to a lack of chances.

New Zealand rallied briefly and midfielder Ryan Thomas forced Russian keeper Igor Akinfeev into a smart save, but in reality Russia ran out comfortable winners and could have added more goals late on.

An own goal from Kiwi defender Michael Boxall and Fyodor Smolov's second-half strike gave the hosts the ideal start to the campaign as they prepare to host the 2018 World Cup.

New Zealand tried to play the ball out of defence but gave it away, and a couple of quick passes from Aleksandr Yerokhin and Poloz allowed Denis Glushakov to run through on goal.

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The New Zealand defender threw himself at the ball in a desperate attempt to to deny Denis Glushakov's effort, but the All Whites player ended up in the goal with the ball, with Glushakov reeling off to celebrate with his teammates.

Group A rivals Portugal and Mexico meet in Kazan on Sunday.

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

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 Kiwis threatened only with back-to-back chances in the 78th minute: A powerful Ryan Thomas shot saved by Russian Federation captain Igor Akinfeev and Tommy Smith's header blocked on the line.

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

As Infantino said, the Federation Internationale de Football Association will work with Russia for one more year to organize the best World Cup.

Russia's fast start contrasted with New Zealand seeming unsettled early in a game that began after an unusual pre-match ceremony.

New Zealand nearly clawed themselves back in the game twice - first Ryan Thomas had a brilliant effort saved by Igor Akinfeev and then Tommy Smith had a powerful header cleared off the line by Yuri Zhirkov.

Russia's players duly delivered a victory their head of state had all but demanded this week by beating a poor New Zealand team 2-0.

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Cherchesov felt president Putin's pre-match speech - which ended with the proclamation "Dear friends, let us watch football! It allowed us to play", Cherchesov said.