Cup draw offers welcome distraction for Russia
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[November 30, 2017]
By Gabrielle Tetrault-Farber
MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russia will host the
2018 World Cup draw on Friday, the glittering ceremony providing a
welcome distraction to the unrelenting diet of doping and corruption
news that has sullied the nation's sporting reputation in recent
The draw ceremony will give Russia the chance to showcase the cities
and stadiums that will host the 32 teams next June and July, with
1986 Golden Boot winner Gary Lineker and Russian sports journalist
Maria Komandnaya the main presenters.
In a new simplified format, the teams will be placed in pots one to
four from highest to lowest FIFA ranking with the exception of
Russia, the lowest-ranked team in the tournament, who are
automatically placed in pot one alongside the top seeds.
Each pot will be emptied one by one into eight groups -- Group A to
Group H -- which will contain four teams each. Two non-European
teams from the same confederation cannot be in the same group to
avoid geographic clashes.
With 14 qualified European teams there cannot be more than two
European teams in the same group.
While the draw ceremony, which the Kremlin said President Vladimir
Putin could attend, will focus on the positive aspects of the
tournament, it will also serve as a reminder of the potential
problems, notably concerns over racist and discriminatory behavior
FIFA President Gianni Infantino warned this week that referees will
have the power to stop or even abandon World Cup matches if such
incidents take place.
The authorities have said that World Cup preparations are generally
on track but there have been some construction delays, including on
the new stadium in Samara.
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A presenter holds the official match ball for the 2018 FIFA World
Cup Russia during an event to announce the new 2018 FIFA Fan Fest
Ambassadors in Moscow, Russia November 29, 2017. REUTERS/Maxim
Work on the 45,000-seat venue, which will host four group stage
matches, a match in the round-of-16 and a quarter-final, has been
plagued by delays over recent months.
Authorities have pledged the venue would be completed on time.
FIFA said that around 750,000 tickets have been allocated in the
first phase of sales, with the second phase beginning next week.
Russian fans have acquired the most tickets, with American fans in
second place even though the country did not qualify for the
tournament. Brazil, Germany, China and Mexico are also among the
leading nations for purchases, FIFA said.
"We're happy with the number of tickets we've allocated," Falk
Eller, the head of FIFA ticketing, told Reuters on Thursday.
"Of course we are also glad that the operation went quite well, no
technical glitches, no problems."
All World Cup ticket holders are required to obtain a personalized
fan-ID, allowing authorities to screen them and keep hooligans away
(Reporting by Gabrielle Tétrault-Farber; Editing by Toby Davis)
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