Russian Federation defeats New Zealand at 1st Match of FIFA Confederations Cup

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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.

Russian Federation scored on both sides of halftime to secure a 2-0 win over New Zealand in Saint Petersburg, a performance that won't exactly have the other two teams in Group A, powers Portugal and Mexico, shaking in their boots.

An own-goal from Michael Boxall and Fedor Smolov's second-half strike sealed all three points for new coach Stanislav Cherchesov's side as the tournament hosts impressed at the Krestovsky Stadium.

Group A's next game will see Portugal squaring off against Mexico on Sunday.

"The fact the leader of the country came to the match is on the one hand an additional positive, but it is also an additional responsibility", Russian Federation manager Stanislav Cherchesov, whose team face Portugal on Wednesday, told reporters.

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.

"For us it is very important to make people in the country fall in love with the national team", said Smolov, who scored into an unguarded goal to finish an attack he started with a surging run into the penalty area.

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The over 68,000-seat capacity stadium created to host the 2017 FIFA Confederations Cup and the 2018 FIFA World Cup matches was laid down in the western portion of Krestovsky Island in St. Petersburg in 2007.

Ten minutes before kickoff, both teams lined up in front of the main stand to listen speeches by Putin and FIFA President Gianni Infantino. "We knew it was going to be a hard game, which was against the host nation and the first one".

Smolov's goal was rightly ruled out for offside, but dominant Russian Federation were not to be denied, taking the lead on 31 minutes. They're going to be a team to keep a close eye on in the Confederations Cup, because it looks possible that New Zealand will be in the World Cup next summer, as well.

After New Zealand lost possession in a unsafe area, Poloz's neat touch released Glushakov, who clipped his finish over Marinovic and off the post before Boxall bundled the ball into his own net as he and Smith frantically tried to clear.

Cherchesov felt president Putin's pre-match speech which ended with the proclamation, "Dear friends, let us watch football!" A three-player race to meet the rebound off a post saw the sliding Boxall's trailing right arm get the final touch in a bundle of bodies.

Russian Federation are automatically part of the Confederations Cup as they're hosting the tournament, as well as the 2018 World Cup.

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