Putin present to see Russia kick off Confederations Cup

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.

Next year in 2018, Russian Federation will be making their fourth appearance at a FIFA World Cup where they will be the hosts. "First of all, let me express gratitude to [FIFA President] Gianni Infantino for being committed to the sport ideals and for helping in the preparations of this landmark event", Putin said at the opening ceremony of the cup. The president prefers ice hockey and saw a team that carried fervent hopes of an Olympic title lose on home ice in the quarterfinals at the 2014 Sochi Olympics.

"And we naturally want to achieve better results than our team showed recently".

"I think Anthony had the opportunity to have a couple of jobs over here", he says, "but chose to stick with New Zealand because of the Confederations Cup".

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.

"Dear friends, let us watch football!"

"We've worked hard and I believe now we're well-prepared for the opening game", Zenit midfielder Igor Smolnikov told Russian TV.

"We're all feeling fearless and will take things on full of optimism. Hopefully, the arena in St Petersburg will be a lucky venue for our team".

New Zealand qualified for the World Cup for the first ever time in 1982 and was grouped with Brazil, Scotland and the Soviet Union.

Nevertheless, at the moment the national team of New Zealand successfully performs in the qualification for the upcoming World Cup, having passed the third stage of selection without defeats and taking 1st place in Group A among the countries of Australia and Oceania. Russia's best ever performance at a major tournament is reaching the semi-finals of the UEFA European Championship in 2008 and their recent results involve four friendlies - a 2-0 loss to Ivory Coast, a 3-3 draw against Belgium, a 3-0 win against Hungary and a 1-1 draw with Chile.

The Russian president wished good luck to both the teams and fans.

"He takes this tournament very seriously and is focussed".

"There is no point in us being here if we're not trying to win". The notorious Czar Peter the Great founded it in the 18th century as the "Gateway to the West", quickly building palaces and castles in just a few years.

"We're a tight-knit team and we really understand all the different phases we have to go through: when it's time to train we train, and when it's time to kick back and relax we do that too".

They will be led by former Barcelona defender Rafael Marquez, still going strong at 38 - while Ronaldo will win his 140th cap in the game, Marquez will be making his 139th worldwide appearance.

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