If Russia's selection to host the 2018 FIFA World Cup was mission accomplished for the country's successful bidding team, the real mission has only just begun. That was the message from Russian Football Union (RFS) president Sergei Fursenko and national team coach Dick Advocaat as they welcomed the news that Russia had been chosen as the first eastern European country to stage the world football showpiece.
Fursenko spoke of the work required to ensure the tournament is a success as he looked ahead to 2018: "Now we need to concentrate on fulfilling our tasks – that is, building 16 new stadiums and 72 training camps. All that became reality in one single moment today."
Advocaat, Russia's Dutch coach, said: "The most important thing is not to think that eight years is a long time. The building and preparations have to start now. New stadiums, infrastructure, transport – the country is facing a huge job. I am happy that not only the national team will benefit from it but also the clubs."
Russia's bid was chosen by the FIFA Executive Committee on Thursday. The other candidates were Belgium/Netherlands, England and Portugal/Spain. The Russian World Cup will feature 14 host cities in Moscow, St Petersburg, Kaliningrad, Nizhni Novgorod, Kazan, Samara, Saransk, Volgograd, Rostov-on-Don, Krasnodar, Ekaterinburg, Podolsk, Yaroslavl and Sochi.
There will be 16 stadiums – with plans to construct 13 of the arenas from scratch and upgrade the other three. The sheer size of the country and long distances between the cities could make transport a key area for the tournament organisers. There are planned improvements to the rail and air networks, though with government guarantees, the RFS is confident of its ability to complete the necessary work.
The president of the Russian federation Dmitri Medvedev posted a short message on his Twitter account after the FIFA announcement, saying: "We are hosting the 2018 FIFA World Cup. Now we have to prepare thoroughly for the tournament and of course give a decent performance in it."
"Our players have to prepare," Medvedev added. "A home World Cup imposes a big responsibility on our national side. I am sure all our players will put in a great effort to produce great results." Russian prime minister Vladimir Putin did not travel to Zurich with his country's bid delegation, but did set off for Switzerland as soon as the decision was confirmed, promising before he left that the World Cup "will be organised at the highest level".
Russia's delegation in Zurich included the nation's vice-president Igor Shuvalov, the sports, youth and tourism minister Vitaly Mutko, RFS president Sergei Fursenko, 2018 bid CEO Alexei Sorokin, Arsenal FC midfielder Andrei Arshavin, former USSR goalkeeper Rinat Dasaev, the head of the national academy and Chelsea FC owner Roman Abramovich, two-time Olympic pole-vault champion Elena Isinbaeva, and model Natalia Vodyanova.
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