Hosts Russia see off New Zealand in Confederations Cup opener

The eight-nation, 16-game tournament features the host nation, 2014 World Cup victor Germany and champions of FIFA's six continental governing bodies.

On Saturday, Russia marched on toward hosting football's biggest party when the rehearsal tournament, the Confederations Cup, kicked off in the $750 million new stadium in Putin's native St. Petersburg.

Organisers have laid fresh turf at the Krestovsky Stadium to allay fears over the condition of the pitch that prompted Zenit to shift their final league match to their former ground.

The 2017 Federations Cup organizing committee is chaired by Russia's Deputy Prime Minister and President of the Russian Football Union Vitaly Mutko.

"The Confederations Cup is the champions' tournament".

Putin, who urged Russian Federation to improve their performances in the build-up to the tournament, seemed to enjoy the match and was seen happily applauding Smolov's strike as he sat in the stands alongside FIFA president Gianni Infantino. "And it's a great football occasion", added Mutko, who is also president of the Russian Football Union. The competition serves as a warm-up for the World Cup, played out a year before the sport's largest event.

The pessimism surrounding this Russian Federation side had been evident all week, but against the only team at the tournament positioned lower in the world rankings, the fans seemed primed to use it as an opportunity for rare positivity.

London fire could delay deal between UK PM May's Conservatives and DUP
That's why we're ready to start very quickly. "That if Britain changes its mind it would find an open door", Guy Verhofstadt told the chamber.

"It is the experience and knowledge that will be of enormous value for 2018".

Group A rivals Portugal, led by Cristiano Ronaldo, and Mexico meet in Kazan on Sunday, with Russia's next game against the Portuguese in Moscow on Wednesday.

The 2017 edition brings together Australia, Chile, Mexico, New Zealand, Portugal, Cameroon, Germany and Russian Federation.

And Samoura said that 480,000 tickets had already been sold - 60 percent of the overall total.

But Russia coach Stanislav Cherchesov, appointed after the country's disastrous Euro 2016 campaign, predicts a tricky encounter as he oversees his first competitive match in charge.

Russian authorities insist there is nearly no chance of a repeat as police have cracked down on suspected troublemakers with a barrage of searches, detentions and criminal probes. Achilles was chosen by the Hermitage Museum to work as a foreteller of the results of the soccer matches at the Confederations Cup.

Although the Kiwis have struggled to find the net of late, coach Anthony Hudson will probably edge his team toward strong and solid in what figures to be a nervy, physical opener.

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