Hosts Russia got off to a winning start at the Confederations Cup on Saturday (17/06/17 with a 2-0 win over New Zealand in Saint Petersburg in the tournament opener.
According to AFP, Russia went ahead in the first half of the Group A encounter through what was credited as an own goal from New Zealand defender Michael Boxall, and Smolov — top scorer in the Russian league last season — wrapped up the points in the 69th minute.
The tournament is an opportunity for Russian coach Stanislav Cherchesov and his side to show what they can do on the pitch, although they will face far greater tests in their next two outings than what New Zealand provided in the opening match.
“I liked New Zealand’s team but luckily we managed to cancel out their strengths and displayed ours, and that was the key to our win tonight,” Cherchesov indicated.
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.
New Zealand manager Anthony Hudson expressed his disappointment but lauded his team for a spirited performance.
“Obviously in the first game of the tournament we wanted to get a better result than we did. So, we’re slightly deflated but the team showed a lot of spirit,” Hudson said.
The FIFA Confederations Cup is an international association football tournament for national teams, currently held every four years by FIFA.
It is contested by the holders of each of the six (UEFA, CONMEBOL, CONCACAF, CAF, AFC, OFC) regional championships, along with the FIFA World Cup holder and the host nation, to bring the number of teams up to eight.
Since 2005, the tournament has been held in the nation that will host the FIFA World Cup in the following year, acting as a rehearsal for the larger tournament.
However, 2022 FIFA World Cup host Qatar will not host 2021 FIFA Confederations Cup as announced by FIFA in 2015 due to Qatar’s high temperatures during the summer period.
That will be the first edition, since the 2003 FIFA Confederations Cup, that the tournament host will not be hosting the next FIFA World Cup.