KEIR RADNEDGE in RIO DE JANEIRO: Russia may have flown home from Brazil a fortnight ago but President Vladimir Putin was in Maracana for the Final to claim his country’s own World Cup win.

On December 2, 2010, the executive committee of world federation FIFA awarded Russia host rights to the 2018 finals, a fact almost forgotten among the controversy surrounding Qatar’s 2022 award half an hour later.

Hence Putin flew in to Rio de Janeiro for a courtesy call on President Dilma Rousseff but first to take over the World Cup.

Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko, a FIFA exco member already in Rio as ‘advance guard’, said: “The first part of his visit is in connection to football. He headed our bidding campaign and now we have established an organising committee and he is the president of the council of the committee.

Family message

“His visit will send a message in reassuring the football family that the Russian government fulfils its obligations.

“He would like to show what we have done so far and express our immense gratitude to the organisers of the current World Cup.

“We know how difficult it is to organise such events and that you have to suffer criticism.

‚Äč”There will be a formal ceremony during which the President of Brazil and the president of FIFA will give a ball or some other symbol of the World Cup so we will feel fully fledged hosts of the next finals. Then everybody will turn towards Russia!.”

Mutko had been impressed by the “exhilarating” manner in which Brazil had hosted the finals with a “unique atmosphere in and around the stadia.”

But Russia had its own its strengths and ambitions.

Mukto said: “Russia is a traditional football country and we have resolved to stage the event at the highest level possible. We will do everything to organise a comparable event in Russia so we can show our country in all its facets.

“The concept of the 2018 World Cup is that our visitors will have an opportunity to visit the various corners of Russia which is why we are doing whatever we can to create the infrastructure so the World Cup will create a legacy for the future.”

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