Russia has passed the test of the confederations Cup, but the owners need a team around which to rally

The confederations Cup is nearing completion, and Russians are generally happy with the way this warm-up tournament involving the eight teams. But a game of their own team they dissatisfied. On Sunday evening Germany fought with Chile in the rays of the late St. Petersburg of the sun, and then it was over — until June 14 next year, when the FIFA circus was coming back to Russian for the main sports event.

This tournament was a dress rehearsal for the 2018 world Cup and a test for its organizers for the year before the main tournament, and Russia sought to counter the perception in the world of ideas about it. They were formed mainly due to horror stories about Russia: bullies, racism, and employment law. And this is not to mention the next series of accusations against Russia in doping.

The fact that Russia put a lot of effort to stand in the way of the hospitable hostess, it became obvious already in the first game in St. Petersburg, when the owners met with New Zealand. As for the world Cup next year, all fans with tickets in hand were exempted from the onerous process of obtaining visas, and smiling volunteers at airports and railway stations directed visitors to the free transport, which took them directly to the stadium.

In all cities where games were played, there were many signs in English, and in Moscow and St. Petersburg subway on the most important directions were set up aid stations. For Russia, where for many years all the hospitality was limited to the dry greeting taciturn and angry border guards, after which guests walked the gauntlet of greedy taxi drivers is a marked improvement.

The construction is similar to the spaceship of a new stadium in St. Petersburg, in itself was an amazing Saga. Construction is nearly 10 years behind schedule, and were marked by numerous allegations of corruption in the use of slave labor from North Korea and the death of workers. It lasted so long that some designs have already started to rust, although since the stadium was only two months. And during the first game inside there was a giant leak. The podium had to be rebuilt, as there were fears that they would be too hard to vibrate, and Cristiano Ronaldo complained about the too long grass.

But all this is easily forgotten when you went to the stadium under the warm summer sun down the path with fountains and trees on the edges, and the numerous volunteers pointed the way and shared a radiant smile with the fans. Endless rows of friendly and cheerful volunteers — this is something that many fans will remember for a long time.

“The Russians have the reputation of being dull and aggressive, but I think the world Cup will show that this is nonsense,” said 37-year-old computer programmer from Sochi, Sergei, who came to the semi-final Germany-Mexico.

One girl in Sochi told me that the curator at the University “advised” around the course to become volunteers, giving to understand that it was not entirely voluntary. But it seemed that most of the volunteers are so happy to participate in the organization of the tournament, even if their whole job was to make a giant hand out of foam to show the fans towards the stadium.

Sometimes this friendly and inspiring atmosphere came across a wall of indifference from reality. Trying to pass in the media center for the opening match, I was stopped by the metal grille, which closed right in front of me, and in an irritable policeman who to every question replied: “Wait.” The volunteers smiled but did not answer the question about what is happening. After some time it became clear that the helicopter will arrive Putin, and for this reason the entrance to the media center was closed for a full 40 minutes. As a result, I, along with other reporters missed the start of the game.

In Moscow a joyful atmosphere to some extent poisoned columns of Riot police stood on the way to the stadium and announcements over the loudspeakers were just stunned everyone with its volume. And in Sochi it’s hard to find some atmosphere. Built for the winter Olympics 2014 Fisht stadium, an impressive arena, is located between the Black sea and the Caucasus mountains, but it is an hour drive from the city, and the surrounding Olympic Park with its sparkling and desert sports facilities like a Parking lot filled with spaceships. Kazan is a sports city whose residents root for “ruby”, often appearing in the European tournaments. There the mood of the crowd was the best.

All fans, except the Germans and the Portuguese, had to make long Intercontinental flights. It is not surprising that a few made it to Russia to see this fairly pointless tournament. Attendance at stadiums was low, and even the tickets for the matches with the participation of Russia was not completely sold. And when the Russian team was eliminated after two defeats in three games, there is generally the atmosphere of indifference.

But arrived in Russia the fans were still very happy. Many are faced with minor difficulties in terms of logistics, but serious problems were quite small. Was the Chilean journalist Diego SAEs (Diego Saez) which demanded 50 thousand rubles (650 GBP) for a taxi ride from the airport to the city, although actually, it’s worth 1538 roubles (20 pounds). But a sign that the authorities are trying hard to create a good impression before the tournament, was the fact that the police found a taxi driver who returned the money and even suggested that the S. N. p. p. to drive it for free until the end of the tournament. Probably, he did it not without pressure from the police.

But this warm-up tournament was held in four cities, and there are still many questions about how ready to host the 2018 world Cup, such as Saransk and Rostov, as well as, cope with the tasks the country’s infrastructure. It’s nice to offer fans free rides between cities, but some trains going for two days or more.

Remained a year, and Russia has two big problems. First, as at this prestigious tournament will act as its team, which has a lot of questions. And secondly, how to show the world a friendly and competent Russian. Russia is not the first time trying to impress the sports world. The 2014 winter Olympics was to show the world and Russians that their country is finally on its feet after a long period of decline that followed the collapse of the Soviet Union.

In the end, the Olympics did something that was intended for internal consumption, but found much less response in the outside world. Looking back, I understand this fully, because many medals the Russian athletes could get through the arrogant and sinister doping program. In the end, Russia’s position in the world in 2014 was determined not skiing in Sochi and the annexation of the Crimea, the subsequent sanctions and war in Ukraine. Russia has indeed returned, but not as much as Putin wanted.

This time, both sides will have even fewer illusions and expectations are already extremely low. Many Russians are convinced that the negative coverage of Russia serves the interests of Russophobic circles in the West who are determined to discredit their country, whatever the reality.

During the confederations Cup there were no problems with bullies and racism, and in the world Cup they may not occur. But Russian officials often act to his own detriment, as it was at the European Championships in 2016, when the representative of the football Union of this country welcomed the violence in Marseille. And in the confederations Cup was held, which was attended by people with painted black faces and bananas in hand depicting the Cameroonians.

To the world Cup will be remembered not for the scandals, as well as a spectacular sports event, Russia will have to overcome many problems. But among the few hotels in the country at the confederations Cup, the fans prevailed optimistic moods.

“I was very hesitant to go to Russia, because this country has caused me concern, said living in France Mexican student Francisco Garcia (Francisco Garcia), who on Thursday arrived at the semifinals in Sochi. But everything was just amazing. I have already tomorrow will start to save money for a trip to the 2018 world Cup”.

Sunday’s confederations Cup final will surely be a game of contrasts. Germany leads on points, the tournament scoring 11 goals, and the Chileans can boast the best defense. The world Champions brought to Russia a very young team (eight players were eligible to play for the team under the age of 21, which on Friday won the European championship), and Chileans have an average age approaching 30 years.

“These are not empty words, said Chilean midfielder Arturo Vidal. We have proven their worth on the field. We beat Argentina (in the final of the Copa America in 2016), which is one of the best teams, and the day before yesterday we defeated a European champion with Portugal. If tomorrow we win, then we can become the best team in the world”.

Chilean Alexis Sanchez is able to create a threat to the fragile German defence during the tournament, conceded five goals and suffered from the shortcomings of the goalkeeper. Although the forward of “Arsenal” in Russia showed itself below the world level, upset by rumors of a transfer to Manchester city, he will be extremely important in the upcoming game, if it is the same open, as two fascinating semi-finals.

Both teams will play the fifth match in two weeks and it might affect fatigue. Germany rested one day less, but Chile on Wednesday played with Portugal for 120 minutes. This team’s coach Juan Antonio Pizzi insists that “the factor of endurance is not the main thing,” but intense style of play “red” and age can play a cruel joke with them.

With the participation of Kieran Pender (Kieran Pender).