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All Whites happy under the radar: Smeltz

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 14/06/2017

Shane Smeltz believes low expectations on the All Whites to perform at the Confederations Cup will only add to their motivation.

Veteran striker Smeltz says the New Zealand players, relative unknowns in the international top flight, will be out surprise pundits when they contest the tournament's opening game against hosts Russia in St Petersburg on Sunday morning (NZT).

New Zealand has never won a game at the eight-nation FIFA event, with their best result a 0-0 draw against Iraq in 2009.

Smeltz, 35, is contesting the "Tournament of Champions" for a third time and says they have their sights on making history.

"There are probably not too many people at this tournament who will expect us to do too much here," Smeltz said at a packed press conference in St Petersburg.

"I'm sure that everyone is expecting Russia to win that first game, but internally we have our own ambition and our own focus and we obviously hope to fulfil that."

Smeltz was satisfied with the team's build-up, comprising 1-0 losses to Northern Ireland and Belarus, with a training camp in Dublin sandwiched between them.

Their fitness and teamwork was now at a good level, he said.

"We definitely have the ambition to get through to the semi-finals, we are not just here to make up the numbers. The full focus of our preparation has been on our first game.

"If we can do what we want to do in that game then it sets us up well for the rest of the tournament."

New Zealand's subsequent pool games are against world No.17 Mexico in Sochi on June 21 and eighth-ranked European champions Portugal in St Petersburg on June 24.

World No.63 Russia may present the best chance of a win. The Russians drew 1-1 with Chile in a recent warm-up game.

Smeltz said the lack of goals in the two warm-up friendlies was not a concern.

"I look around and know that this team has plenty of goals in it," he said.

"It is just a matter of us now having that belief and that target of going out there and putting it in the back of the net. We have Woodsy [Chris Wood] coming off an unbelievable season in the Championship in England, and we have many other players around him who can score goals."

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