June 17, 2017

ST. PETERSBURG, Russia (AP) The Confederations Cup has kicked off with host nation Russia opening the World Cup rehearsal tournament against New Zealand.

Russian President Vladimir Putin was among an expected 60,000-plus crowd in a $750 million new stadium. He gave a brief speech before the game kicked off. ''Welcome to Russia,'' he said.

Putin said this week he expected Russia to play like warriors and that fans expected better results from the world's No. 63-ranked team.

Security checks were tight around the stadium with many fans delayed getting in for a 20-minute opening ceremony of music and dance that began almost two hours before kickoff at 6 p.m. local time (1500 GMT).

The eight-nation, 16-game tournament features the host nation, 2014 World Cup winner Germany and champions of FIFA's six continental governing bodies.

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