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Mutko: Russia ready to host FIFA Confederations Cup

18 Juin 2017

Hosts Russia kick off the Confederations Cup against New Zealand in Saint Petersburg today, targeting victory in their opening match to set the tone for a successful soccer tournament.

With Wednesday marking exactly one year until the start of the 2018 World Cup in Russian Federation, the hype - and genuine fan interest - has started to ramp up, fanned by such eye-catching moments as Michael Bradley's out-of-nowhere strike for the US against Mexico in the last qualifier.

- New Zealand's Anthony Hudson is the youngest manager at this year's Confederations Cup, aged just 36; with the exception of Chile's Juan Antonio Pizzi (49), all the other managers at the tournament are over 50.

This is the other reason the 63rd-ranked Russian squad have a sizeable weight on their shoulders coming into their clash with world No 95 New Zealand. It recovered some pride for a team that had become accustomed to failure at major tournaments.

Russia's track record of football-related racism has raised questions as to whether fans and players of various backgrounds will be welcome at both the Confederations Cup and the 2018 World Cup.

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The host nation and the Oceania champions will kick-off the 2017 edition of the FIFA Confederations Cup. The eight teams are split into two groups with two teams from each group advancing to the semifinals.

His best display this season was a hat-trick when he single-handedly sealed Leverkusen's 3-2 away win at Mainz last September - then modestly credited his team for helping him score the three goals. There is also a third place match.

Which teams are competing this year?

How they qualified: By winning the 2014 World Cup. Their star player should be goalkeeper Igo Akinfeev.

The regulations give a match referee the ability to take the players off the pitch and abandon a match if spectators fail to heed warnings over racist or anti-gay chanting. New Zealand is, however, playing its 4th Confederation football championship but has lost 8 of 9 tournaments.

They will be without regular captain Winston Reid, who battled a knee injury through the last weeks of the English Premier League season with West Ham United.

The Euro 2016 winners have big players in the tournament headed by Ballon d'Or victor Cristiano Ronaldo.

Few players will be as motivated to perform well in this tournament as Portugal's veteran talisman Cristiano Ronaldo. Bernadao Silva will wear the number 10 shirt and he is another expected to make a mark.

Chile reached the Confederations Cup after their historic win against Argentina on penalties in 2015 Copa America.

Alexis Sanchez, Arturo Vidal, Claudio Bravo and Eduardo Vargas will be some of the key figures for La Roja.

On the other hand, New Zealand head coach Anthony Hudson is not anxious about their status as the underdogs heading into the opening match against Russian Federation.

While Vela was Mexico's best player Sunday, Mexico's main forward Javier Hernandez was horrendous.

After a 2-0 home defeat to world No 44 Ivory Coast, Russia bounced back for a 3-3 draw with seventh-ranked Belgium in the March global window. Low made a decision to drop big names like Mats Hummels, Mesut Ozil, Manuel Neuer and Toni Kroos as he looks to test other talents.

Mutko: Russia ready to host FIFA Confederations Cup