Russian Federation relieved after passing first World Cup test

Posted June 18, 2017

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

Russian Federation made an impressive start to the tournament in Saint Petersburg on Saturday, winning 2-0 thanks to Michael Boxall's own goal and a Fyodor Smolov strike, in a victory that was more convincing than the scoreline suggests.

A lovely display by Erokhin and Poloz had set Glushakov through on goal, and the latter's effort was turned in by Boxall to put the hosts ahead in the 31st minute.

Russian Federation are now top of Group A, which has Portugal and Mexico also in it - who both will play the second match of the group on Sunday.

Russia's win certainly eased the pressure on winning its second game, against Cristiano Ronaldo's Portugal in Moscow on Wednesday. We played the match we have been planning for.

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.

The Russian president made it a national priority to win hosting rights for the 2018 World Cup in a fierce Federation Internationale de Football Association bidding contest seven years ago. New Zealand's team will play with Mexico on the very same day in the Russian resort city of Sochi.

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Fedor Smolov celebrates scoring Russia's second goal.

Instead it was their Kiwi opponents who spent the large majority of the 90 minutes under the pump, Russian Federation scoring once in each half and creating numerous other opportunities as the All Whites were forced to continuously scramble in defence and survive on scraps in attack.

After New Zealand lost possession in a risky 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.

Ten minutes before kickoff, both teams lined up in front of the main stand to listen speeches by Putin and FIFA President Gianni Infantino. 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.

"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.

A Confederations Cup trophy, never mind a World Cup title, might be too much to ask even for Putin, But Saturday was a start.