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Russia Gets Set as FIFA World Cup Kicks Off

Published: June 11, 2014 (Issue # 1815)


The FIFA World Cup starts tomorrow evening in Brazil as the host country takes on Croatia in the first of 64 games to be played over the next month. It is the worlds largest sporting spectacle and billions are expected to watch as 32 nations vie for the chance to be crowned as the best at the worlds most popular game.

For the first time in 12 years, Russia will be competing in the tournament. After finishing at the top of their qualifying group, the national team, nicknamed sbornaya, was drawn into group H, placing them alongside Belgium, South Korea and Algeria.

Their first match, against South Korea, kicks off at 2 a.m. on June 18 (Moscow time), followed by a showdown with Belgium in Rio de Janeiro at 8 p.m. on June 22 (Moscow time) before finishing the group stage against Algeria at 12 a.m. on June 27 (Moscow time). If Russia finishes as one of the top two teams in their group, they will play against one of the top two teams from Group G, which features Germany, Portugal, the United States and Ghana, in the round of 16.

The Russian team exclusively features players from the Russian Premier League, including five from this years champions CSKA Moscow and four from Zenit St. Petersburg. Coached by Italian manager Fabio Capello, who led England out of the group stage at the last edition of the tournament in 2010 before Germany demolished them 4-1 in the next round, the national team hopes to avoid a repeat of their last appearance at the World Cup.

In 2002, Russia was also drawn in Group H with an eerily similar draw to this years, placed in a group with Belgium, Tunisia and Japan. After beating Tunisia 2-0 in their first game, they lost to co-hosts Japan 1-0, a result which sparked riots in Moscow that killed 2 people. The national team lost 3-2 in their final game against Belgium after conceding two late goals and they were eliminated from the tournament.

Russia, however, will be without former Zenit St. Petersburg player and national team captain Roman Shirokov. The midfielder has not played since April and will undergo knee surgery in Finland this week. He has been replaced in the squad by 21-year-old midfielder Pavel Mogilevets, who plays for Rubin Kazan on loan from Zenit.

It is yet another eerie similarity to Russias last appearance in the World Cup. In 2002, then midfielder and playmaker Alexander Mostovoi missed the tournament after injuring his thigh several weeks before it began.

Shirokovs former teammate and current Zenit St. Petersburg striker Alexander Kerzhakov is the only member of the 2002 team in this years squad. Now 31, he is one goal away from matching Vladimir Beschastnykhs record 26 goals for the national team, a mark Kerzhakov will have a chance to surpass at this tournament.

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ALL ABOUT TOWN

Thursday, Aug. 28


Learn more about the citys upcoming municipal elections during the presentation of the project Road Map for the Municipal Elections being presented this evening in the conference hall on the third floor of Biblioteka at 21 Nevsky Prospekt. Steve Kaddins, a coordinator for Beautiful St. Petersburg, which gives residents an online forum to lodge complaints about infrastructure problems in the city, will be on hand to answer any questions. The meeting starts at 7 p.m. and is open to all.



Friday, Aug. 29


Park Pobedy will feature the sights and sounds of the world outside of Russia during the Open Art International Festival today. Taste foreign cuisine, learn how to make tea like the Chinese or relax in a hammock during the free event. Although entrance is free, you must register beforehand if you wish to attend.



Saturday, Aug. 30


Break out the tweed and channel your inner Englishman during the English Hunt Picnic this afternoon organized by the Bagmut stables from Krasny Bor in the Leningrad Oblast. Equestrian stunts, English archery and classic hunting fashion will all be available to visitors hoping to live like the characters in Downton Abbey if only for a day. Tickets for the event cost 7,900 rubles ($219.40).


Bookworms will have their chance to swap out well-read classics for something new for their bookshelves at Knigovorot, a free book exchange that will be held in the Yusupov Garden on Sadovaya Ulitsa today. Come for the chance to get a new book or take the opportunity to discuss the literary merits of your favorite authors with fellow fans.



Sunday, Aug. 31


The Neva Delta International Blues Festival wraps up this afternoon on Vasilevsky Island with a concert featuring not only some of Russias best blues bands but international stars as well. Admission is free for all three days of the festival, which begins on Aug. 29, and the shows starting at 5 p.m. each day.



Monday, Sept. 1


Today marks the beginning of Lermontov-Fest, a fall festival celebrating the life of one of Russias most remarkable poets who, in a fate eerily similar to Pushkins, was killed in a duel at the age of 26. Organized by the Lermontov Library System, the next several months will see art exhibitions, concerts and public lectures focusing on the Lermontovs short yet prolific career. Check the Lermontov Library Systems website for more details.



Tuesday, Sept. 2


Join expats and practice your Russian during the Russian Clubs weekly meetings every Tuesday night at 7:30 p.m. The club is free to participate in although you need to be a registered member of Couchsurfing.



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