Putin present to see Russia kick off Confederations Cup

Putin present to see Russia kick off Confederations Cup

Three of the previous nine Confederations Cups have been won by the host nation and Russian Federation, playing in the tournament for the first time, impressed with victory in Saint Petersburg.

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.

Hosts Russia got off to a winning start at the Confederations Cup on Saturday, Fedor Smolov's second-half goal sealing a 2-0 win over New Zealand in Saint Petersburg in the tournament opener.

After having two early chances cleared off the line, they took the lead when Michael Boxall scored an own goal after Denis Glushakov had struck the post.

It would mean they would nearly certainly need to get at least a draw against world No 17 Mexico, and probably a win given their last group match was against European champions Portugal.

Russian President Vladimir Putin is expected to attend the opening match, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters when asked if Putin was planning to visit the game.

Russian Federation made sure of victory in the second half, with Fyodor Smolov's third goal in four internationals ensuring president Vladimir Putin, who called for improved performances in the event, was applauding happily in the stands.

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Meant to act as a World Cup preview, the Confedrations Cup is always an interesting look at the top teams from each confederation in the world, as well as the reigning World Cup winners and the host nation of the next World Cup.

"However, we were playing against a very strong Russian team".

"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.

Playing in the tournament for the first time, Russian Federation were on the front foot and had two early chances cleared off the line in the opening 10 minutes.

New Zealand are now without a win in 10 Confederations Cup matches and struggled to make an attacking impression.

Smolov had an effort ruled out for offside before the opening goal arrived just after the half-hour mark. 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.

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