Russia 2 New Zealand 0: Hosts make confident start to Confederations Cup

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The Confederations Cup kicked off on Saturday and will last through July 2 in the Russian cities of Kazan, Sochi, St. Petersburg and Moscow.

Hosts Russia eased to a 2-0 win over New Zealand on Saturday in the opening match of the Confederations Cup, a tournament seen as a test for the country before it stages next year's World Cup.

New Zealand's Michael Boxall got a touch on the ball and was credited with an own goal. Portugal and Mexico are other teams in Group A and will face-off on Sunday, June 18.

"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 Federation secured victory in the second half with Fyodor Smolov's goal in the 69th minute.

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.

Russian President Vladimir Putin and FIFA President Gianni Infantino officially opened the tournament.

"I don't know how it was to play on, but judging by the game it seemed the quality (of the pitch) was rather good".

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"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.

Ronaldo will be able to focus his fans' minds on playing after widespread suggestions this week he wants to leave Real Madrid and Spain, where his tax affairs are under investigation.

"It is the first step to the English Premier League now", Cherchesov said in English as he looked across to his also-smiling forward at a news conference.

Smolov's goal was rightly ruled out for offside, but dominant Russian Federation were not to be denied, taking the lead on 31 minutes.

Russian Federation deserved its first-half lead after twice having shots stopped on the line in the opening 10 minutes. Russia, a record low 63rd in FIFA's world rankings, face Portugal on Wednesday and New Zealand play Mexico the same day.

A chest-high pass to forward Dmitry Poloz was deftly guided into the path of Denis Glushakov who chipped the ball over onrushing goalkeeper Stefan Marinovic. "But I imagine they are happy with the win in the first game".

The FIFA Confederations Cup is viewed by experts as a rehearsal for the organizers, with only one year to go to the FIFA World Cup.

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