Putin wants tough soccer from Russia at World Cup
SOCHI, Russia (AP) Russian President Vladimir Putin said Thursday he wanted to see ”strong-willed, no-compromise” soccer from his country’s team at next month’s World Cup.
The host nation goes into the tournament with no victories from its last five friendlies, and also�failed to win a game at the 2016 European Championship or 2014 World Cup.
Meeting with FIFA President Gianni Infantino and Russian officials in Sochi, Putin said ”we all hope our players will give themselves fully to the game, will play at full strength, will display the strong-willed, no-compromise soccer which fans value and love.”
Russia hasn’t gone past the group stage at any senior men’s tournament since it reached the semifinals of the 2008 European Championship.
The host nation opens the World Cup against Saudi Arabia in Group A on June 14 before playing Egypt five days later and Uruguay on June 25. Before the finals, it has friendlies against Austria and Turkey.
Putin said Russia was ”practically finished” with preparations for the tournament, which takes place across 11 cities.
”There’s still some work to be done,” Infantino said. ”And we know how important of course the last weeks are to fine-tune the little elements which are still missing. But the message is, the preparation, the feedback from all our experts at FIFA are extremely positive.”
Putin and Infantino also showed off Fan IDs. Ticket holders must give personal information to the Russian government in return for the ID cards, which will double as a visa for those who need them.
Ticket holders won’t be admitted to a stadium without this ID.