Confed Cup and 2018 World Cup host Russia relieved after positive feedback about St Petersburg pitch
Russia breathed a sigh of relief on Saturday after its soccer team won the opening match of the Confederations Cup and the country demonstrated that one of its most problematic World Cup pitches was fit for international matches.
Russia convincingly beat New Zealand 2-0 at the St Petersburg stadium in front of 50,251 people, including President Vladimir Putin and FIFA president Gianni Infantino, who addressed the crowd before kickoff. Putin welcomed fans to what he called a “big football festival” and thanked Infantino and FIFA for the faith they had shown in Russia.
“The fact the leader of the country came to the match is on the one hand an additional positive, but it is also an additional responsibility,” Russia manager Stanislav Cherchesov, whose team face Portugal on Wednesday, told reporters. “We coped with the task before us,” Cherchesov said.
Although Russia were under pressure to perform well on home soil after slipping to a record low 63rd in FIFA’s world rankings this month, the country faced even more scrutiny over issues off the pitch in the run-up to the two-week tournament.
The 68,000-seat St Petersburg stadium will be a flagship venue at the 2018 World Cup and the home of Russian soccer powerhouse …read more