Lowly-ranked Russia, Saudi Arabia to open 2018 FIFA World Cup

Last-minute adjustments are taking place at the Luzhniki Stadium. The advertising boards are being properly fitted, broadcasting equipment hauled around and the second floor media centre suddenly looks pretty crowded.On Wednesday, in a cramped press conference room on the ground floor, Stanislav Cherchesov holds court. Alexander Samedov, the most experienced right winger in the Russian national team, looks totally disinterested in the proceedings.Perhaps, like many of his compatriots, the long wait for actual action to begin has resulted in attention fatigue. The fans, on the streets and on social media, have expressed their displeasure with the ‘Sbornaya’, the name they use fondly for their national team.Thirty-six summers have passed since Igor Belanov won the Balon d’Or following which the country changed its name thrice to keep pace with the geopolitical revisions. The last occasion when they won a continental title was in 1960 when the world knew it as Soviet Union. Twenty eight years later, Belanov’s brigade made the finals of the European championships again, only to be bombed out by Marco van Basten’s volley and Rudd Gullit’s omniscient brilliance.



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