Every four years the football fraternity comes to a standstill and all eyes turn their attention towards the FIFA World Cup
. As is tradition, the former and future hosts make it known to the watching world, through a friendly international, that with less than 90 days to go, the showpiece event is creeping ever closer.
South African’s will fondly remember their World Cup handover fixtures. First off in September of 2009, in the build-up to 2010, Bafana Bafana lost 2-0 to Germany who had hosted the tournament four years earlier. And then when all the dust had settled around Soccer City long after the final whistle had been blown on the first World Cup on African soil, The Boys welcomed back Brazil in March 2014 as the competition returned to the Samba nation later that year.
On Friday the 23rd of March 2018, as Russia gets ready to welcome the world, they entertained Brazil on home soil for the first time in over 12 years since a 1-0 defeat in Moscow in March 2006. Friday’s affair turned out the same way, with Tite’s men cruising to a comfortable 3-0 victory on the night thanks to second-half goals from Miranda, Phillipe Coutinho and Paulinho.
Despite the disappointing result, Russian fans have had a small taste of the party atmosphere to come and will be itching to get the competition underway. The hosts in Group A are looking to progress to the knockout rounds of a World Cup for the very first time in their history, have been drawn alongside Saudi Arabia who they will face on opening night as well as tricky opponents in the likes of Egypt and Uruguay respectively.
Russia vs France
Tuesday, March 27th
Krestovsky Stadium, St. Petersburg
Kick-off at 17:50 (5:50pm) SA time
Stanislav Cherchesov’s side will face Euro 2016 hosts and finalists France at the Krestovsky Stadium this evening before further friendlies against Austria and Turkey will follow in May as the final touches are made to the squad that will carry the hopes of an entire nation on their shoulders. The only match to be played in Russia between the pair was almost 20 years ago to the day when Sergei Yuran secured a 1-0 win a first-ever victory over their more fancied opponents.
Another interesting little subplot to keep an eye on in the coming weeks is the announcement of the 2026 FIFA World Cup hosts which will be made in Moscow on the 13th
June. Will it return to North America as Canada and Mexico join the USA in their three-way bid or will the tournament return to Africa once again with Morocco, who ultimately lost out to South Africa in the bidding process for 2010, being the sole contenders.
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