Published: Mon, July 16, 2018
Sports | By Jonathan Ford

Putin 'proud' of Russia's handling of World Cup

Putin 'proud' of Russia's handling of World Cup

France's Paul Pogba celebrates with the trophy after the final match between France and Croatia at the 2018 soccer World Cup in the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow.

Macron, it seems, joined the French players during the post-match celebrations in the dressing room.

The tournament kicked off with Russia's 5-0 thrashing of Saudi Arabia, but it was former Take That star Robbie Williams who grabbed headlines for showing his middle finger to a TV camera during his opening-ceremony performance.

The national football team of hosts Russian Federation managed to make it to the quarterfinals stage of this world tournament, where Croatia edged them out in a 4-2 penalty shootout on July 7 at the Fisht Arena in Sochi.

"In Russia, we are always glad to see our friends, both old and new, now that we have so many more of them", Putin said.

"We all fell in love with Russia", Infantino added at a round table with Putin last week.

He said: "This World Cup has proved that Russian Federation is a truly football country". The words, accompanied by a picture of an empty fan zone to mark the end of the tournament, concluded: "Welcome to the real Russia".

Brazil's forward Neymar (C) celebrates after scoring the opening goal during the Russian Federation 2018 World Cup round of 16 football match between Brazil and Mexico at the Samara Arena in Samara on July 2, 2018.

Putin, at the ceremony, expressed gratitude to footballers and fans alike.

Worryingly, Fifa have been only too willing to cooperate along the way, even after the corruption scandal that engulfed the governing body in 2015.

Pussy Riot claimed responsibility for the four pitch invaders who disrupted the final just after Croatia's goalkeeper saved a Kylian Mbappe shot in the 51st minute. It is the ultimate test of footballing quality and an opportunity to show that you can do it without a host of world-class support which is the case for many countries who have only a handful of established names.

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