Russian Federation faces first test for 2018 WCup with NZ opener

The Russian players during their final training session ahead of today’s match against New Zealand

Hosts Russia kick off the Confederations Cup against New Zealand in St Petersburg today, targeting victory in their opening match to set the tone for a successful tournament.

When asked whether the Russian team has a chance of winning the trophy, Mutko replied "Yes, judging by their devotion".

The other two Group A teams include European champions Portugal spearheaded by the global superstar Cristiano Ronaldo and the most decorated CONCACAF team Mexico.

"For us it is very important to make people in the country fall in love with the national team", said Smolov, the 27-year-old FC Krasnodar forward who was named the game's best player.

Globe champions Germany and the champions from FIFA's 6 confederations are competing in the two-week event that will permit Russian Federation to check its soccer framework in 4 of the 11 cities hosting World Cup matches.

Although Russia were under pressure to perform well on home soil after slipping to a record low 63rd in FIFA's world rankings this month, the country faced even more scrutiny over issues off the pitch in the run-up to the two-week tournament.

More news: La Liga chief Javier Tebas "positive" of Cristiano Ronaldo innocence

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.

Russian Federation eventually broke the deadlock in the 30th minute as Denis Glushakov was played through on goal by Fyodor Smolov and lobbed on-rushing Marinovic.

Russian Federation were on the front foot early and had two chances cleared off the line in the opening 10 minutes.

Aleksandr Samedov's corner found Viktor Vasin who saw his header hacked clear by Michael McGlinchey.

"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.

Portugal's William Carvalho, left, and Mexico's Raul Jimenez fight for the ball during the Confederations Cup, Group A soccer match between Portugal and Mexico, at the Kazan Arena, Russia, Sunday, June 18, 2017.

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