The All Whites will play Russia in their opening match of the 2017 FIFA Confederations Cup on June 18 (NZT) in Saint Petersburg.
Anthony Hudson’s men will look to test themselves against world-class opposition and go further than New Zealand have ever gone at a Confederations Cup.
This year, Russia is the hosts of the tournament and will no doubt be supported by thousands of fans throughout all the matches in Group A.
With the All Whites taking on Russia in the first match of the tournament, here are five things to know about New Zealand’s opponents.
Russia will make its fourth appearance at a FIFA World Cup
Next year in 2018, Russia will be making their fourth appearance at a FIFA World Cup where they will be the hosts. Their previous World Cup records involve group stage finishes as Russia have never made it through to the knockout stages as an independent nation. For the Confederations Cup, they will be making their first appearance, where they will be looking to impress in front of a home crowd and build on a successful campaign.
Russia was once ranked third in the world
In April 1996, the FIFA rankings displayed Russia as the third best-placed team in the world. It was their highest ever FIFA ranking, with their lowest being 63, which is also their most recent ranking of June 2017. Throughout their Confederations Cup campaign, Russia will look to build on that, as well as progress for next year’s World Cup.
New Zealand and Russia have never played each other
New Zealand qualified for the World Cup for the first ever time in 1982 and was grouped with Brazil, Scotland and the Soviet Union. The Soviet Union took the honours in that game by defeating New Zealand 3-0. As an independent nation, Russia has never played New Zealand before and their first match will take place as the opener to the Confederations Cup.
Russia has never faced Oceania opposition
Russia as an independent nation has never faced OFC opposition before and will look to study the way the All Whites play in order to ensure a result comes their way. Anthony Hudson and the All Whites have been working hard in their preparations for the Confederations Cup and will look to cause an upset against Russia.
Russia has had many notable results
Russia’s first international match as an independent nation was a 2-0 win over Mexico in 1992. Three years later, they achieved their biggest ever win against San Marino, which ended in a 7-0 triumph. Twenty years later in 2015, they played Liechtenstein, which ended in the same scoreline. Their biggest ever defeat remains a 7-1 loss in 2004 to Portugal, whom they will be playing in their second match in Group A of the Confederations Cup. 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.
2017 FIFA Confederations Cup – All Whites draw
17 June 6pm (3am 18 June NZT) v Russia, Krestovsky Stadium, St Petersburg
21 June 9pm (6am 22 June NZT) v Mexico, Fisht Olympic Stadium, Sochi
24 June 6pm (3am 25 June NZT) v Portugal, Krestovsky Stadium, St Petersburg
All matches live on SKY Sport