Federation Internationale de Football Association chief praises Russia's preparations for 2018 World Cup


In the tournament's opening game at Saint Petersburg Stadium and with President Vladimir Putin, FIFA chief Gianni Infantino and football legend Pele all in attendance, Russian Federation made the winning start to the tournament that was widely expected of them against a lower-ranked New Zealand team. Striker Smolov and midfielder Glushakov fired a goal each to take their team to a comfortable victory.

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.

Without a win in 10 Confederations Cup matches, New Zealand next play Mexico on Wednesday in Sochi.

Putin also stressed Russia's "responsibility and decisiveness to hold the Confederations Cup at the top level".

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This is the 10th confederations cup, and just like numerous previous tournaments, it is being held in the country that will host the World Cup the following year, Russia.

Originally built as an enclosed facility, it has undergone a conversion to host Confederations Cup and World Cup matches. "We are the only team at the Confed Cup that has not won any other tournament to qualify, but we will do our best".

Since clashes between Russian and English fans tarnished the European championship in France past year, Putin has approved legislation that toughens punishments for violence at sporting events as part of a broader crackdown on hooliganism.

While Russia defeated New Zealand in the Confederations Cup opener, many questions still surround their predictability.

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"Regarding Ronaldo, he is motivated, and what I can see is that he is taking the competition very seriously and is totally dedicated to training and thinking about the next game against Mexico", Silva told reporters ahead of the European champions' opening game.

Federation Internationale de Football Association will for the first time also implement a three-step procedure that allow referees to stop matches in the event of racist or discriminatory incidents - a new measure Deputy Prime Minister Vitaly Mutko welcomed as the "absolute right decision".

Confederations Cup teams Chile and Mexico have been sanctioned by Federation Internationale de Football Association a combined 17 times for fans' homophobic chants in the current World Cup qualifying programme.

Portugal's William Carvalho, left, and Mexico's Raul Jimenez fight for the ball during the Confederations Cup, Group A soccer match between Portugal and Mexico, at the Kazan Arena, Russia, Sunday, June 18, 2017. And we will go into the next game with the same mindset.

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"Ronaldo is motivated", young Portugal forward Andre Silva said. "Welcome to the FIFA Confederations Cup in Russia", Infantino said.