Russian midfielder Smolnikov says hosts are well prepared and feeling brave as they take on minnows NZ in today's tournament opener
Russia's midfielder Igor Smolnikov. Pic/Getty Images
Moscow: 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.
"We've worked hard and I believe now we're well-prepared for the opening game," Zenit midfielder Igor Smolnikov told Russian TV. "But we will be able to check whether we've done everything right only once we play in official matches. We're all feeling brave and will take things on full of optimism. Hopefully, the arena in St Petersburg will be a lucky venue for our team."
It will be the first meeting between Russia and New Zealand, the champions of Oceania, in the post-Soviet era. The USSR beat New Zealand 3-0 at the 1982 World Cup in Spain. 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.
Meanwhile, New Zealand are appearing for the fourth time, although the All Whites are still hunting for a first win in the eight-team competition.
Moscow: Russian President Vladimir Putin will attend the first match of the Confederations Cup tomorrow. FIFA President Gianni Infantino will also attend the match. "The president looks into this matter. He gets reports from those in charge. For now all is proceeding well," Russian presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov said. "As far as I know, thorough preparations have been made. Russia has vast experience of hosting such events. There is every reason to expect all will be a success," he added.