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New Zealand striker Chris Wood will captain the squad after West Ham defender Winston Reid was forced out with a knee injury. Wood was top-scorer in England’s second-tier last season. Bill Tuiloma of Marseilles will be a stabilizing influence in midfield.
Salty Russia defenders Vasily Berezutsky and Sergei Ignashevich have both left, but their younger replacements have struggled. Fyodor Smolov is the main attacking threat, while fellow forward Alexander Kokorin wasn’t selected. Injuries have depleted the squad, with midfielders Alan Dzagoev and Roman Zobnin missing out, along with forward Artyom Dzyuba.
Russia and New Zealand will open the 2017 Confederations Cup on Saturday at Saint Petersburg Stadium.
The Group A first stage match will be Russia’s Confederations Cup debut, and it will come in front of a home crowd that has already sent thousands of fans to practices ahead of the tournament. If the team can handle the pressure of hosting, it has the chance to start off on the right foot against the Oceania champions. Russia has lost only once in its last five and is the favorite in the opener.
The All Whites are making their fourth appearance in the Confederations Cup, but are yet to tally a victory, recording just a single point in total. The underdogs will rely on striker Chris Wood to lead what has been a defensive squad.
“This is what we do all of the hard work for,” Wood told FIFA.com ahead of the Russia match. “This is why we play all of the hard games in the Islands. … The boys are raring to go and will be up for it.”
The pool also includes Portugal and Mexico, presenting what is likely to be a tough path for either Russia or New Zealand moving through these opening stages.