MOSCOW (Sputnik) – Russian President Vladimir Putin will attend the opening ceremony of the 2018 FIFA World Cup, which will kick off in Russia on Thursday, and watch the opening match between Russia and Saudi Arabia at the Luzhniki stadium in Moscow.
Russia is hosting the FIFA World Cup for the first time in history. The matches will be held at 12 stadiums across 11 Russian cities, including Moscow, St. Petersburg, Rostov-on-Don, Sochi, Yekaterinburg, Saransk, Kaliningrad, Nizhny Novgorod, Kazan, Volgograd and Samara.
“Our country is ready to host the FIFA World Cup, and provide everyone who will come to Russia with maximum comfort and the best emotions possible,” Putin said at the 68th FIFA Congress, held in Moscow on Wednesday.
The Russian president also expressed gratitude to FIFA President Gianni Infantino for his positive attitude toward Russia and the great job he has done as the FIFA head.
At his “Direct Line” Q&A session on June 7, Putin said he had expected the Russian national team to succeed at the tournament.
“Despite the fact that our national team has not been performing well recently, the number of fans of this beautiful sport is huge — millions of people… Let’s hope that our national football team will succeed at the forthcoming championship and will show its best qualities,” the Russian president pointed out.
According to the Kremlin, the FIFA World Cup opening ceremony will be attended by more than 20 world leaders, including Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, Abkhazian President Raul Khajimba, Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev, Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan, Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, Bolivian President Evo Morales, Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev, Kyrgyz President Sooronbai Jeenbekov, and President of the Presidium of North Korea’s Supreme People’s Assembly Kim Yong Nam.
FIFA said on June 9 that more than 2.5 million World Cup tickets had already been sold to fans across the world, with the final stage of ticket sales open since April 18. More than 870,000 tickets were bought by Russians, almost 90,000 by fans from the United States and over 72,500 by Brazilians.
A poll conducted by Ipsos MORI and published on June 7 showed that 73 percent of 12,000 people who took part in a global survey were happy with Russia being the host of the 2018 FIFA World Cup.
The Video Assistant Referee (VAR) system will be used at the FIFA World Cup for the first time, after being tested at the 2017 FIFA Confederations Cup and used at top leagues in Italy and Germany.
FIFA said in April that its Referees Committee had selected 13 VARs for the World Cup in Russia.
“It [VAR] was a great success in Italy… The statistics are very positive. We had more than a hundred referee decisions changed… Technologies are everywhere. The target of VAR is justice and to avoid clear and obvious mistakes,” committee’s spokesman Roberto Rosetti said.
Similar opinion was voiced by Infantino at the FIFA Congress, who stressed that VAR would be beneficial for football.