Russian Federation vs New Zealand, Confederations Cup 2017

Posted June 18, 2017

The eight-team tournament, considered a test run for FIFA's more prestigious World Cup which takes place in Russian Federation next year, begins with the hosts squaring off against New Zealand in St. Petersburg Saturday.

The 2017 Confederations Cup got off to a strong start for hosts Russian Federation as they held much of the possession and soundly defeated New Zealand 2-0 in the tournament opener.

"When the president of our country comes out to make a speech it mobilises us and gives us great motivation, but it also adds to our responsibilities", Cherchesov told reporters.

"We coped with the task before us", Cherchesov said.

For FIFA, it's the next best thing to the World Cup - an elite eight-nation tournament laying the groundwork for their showpiece event in 2018.

The Russian national team and the New Zealand team have never played against each other for the whole history of their existence.

The entire Socceroos squad took part in their opening training session, though Robbie Kruse did some light work separate from the rest of the squad as a precaution after picking up a minor knock against Brazil match.

Federation Internationale de Football Association clearly believe there could be a racism problem, because for the first time they have given referees at this tournament the right to stop or abandon games if there is persistent abuse towards players. "But we will be able to check whether we've done everything right only once we play in official matches".

The fans arrived two days in advance - and have had a chance to enjoy arguably Russia's most picturesque city at an unusually spectacular time. They are following New Zealand, who are in the tournament as the Oceania champions. Portugal will play Mexico in a Confederations Cup, Group A soccer match scheduled for Sunda. "They can't possibly lose to a team like New Zealand".

A good performance at the Confederations Cup will virtually secure him a fifth world player of the year award, equaling Lionel Messi.

Russian Federation deserved its first-half lead after twice having shots stopped on the line in the opening 10 minutes.

See how to watch Saturday's game below.

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.

But empty seats remain a concern, with Russia's Sport Express reporting that some tickets were being handed out to state workers for free in a bid to fill the stands at an upcoming Confederations Cup match in Kazan.