Russian Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko named Tuesday a list of five candidate cities most likely to be cut from the final list of host venues for the 2018 World Cup in Russia.
The major population centers of Volgograd, formerly Stalingrad, and Rostov-on-Don are among the five, which also include Yaroslavl near Moscow, Kaliningrad on the Baltic coast and the central Russian city of Saransk.
Two cities are set to be culled before the final list of 11 is unveiled September 29.
“There are cities where we see several problems, Saransk, Volgograd, Yaroslavl, Kaliningrad, Rostov-on-Don,” Mutko said on the Sports Ministry website.
“It will probably be from this group that the two cities will be chosen which will not make Russia’s final list.”
Mutko did not specify what problems the cities faced, nor whether he had any inside knowledge of the decision-making process, which is to be undertaken by FIFA’s executive committee.
Five more cities appeared safe, Mutko said, with two more probable to make the final list.
“There’s a group of cities which are ready to host the World Cup under all five criteria. That’s Moscow, St. Petersburg, Kazan, Sochi, Yekaterinburg.”
“There are cities which will most likely be ready, Krasnodar and Samara.”
Mutko did not specify the status of Nizhny Novgorod, the only city he did not mention.
Russia has not qualified for the last two World Cups and failing to reach Brazil 2014 would be unacceptable, he warned.
“It’s about time it became an indignity [not to qualify],” he said. “We should always be playing at the World Cup.”
Moscow’ s Luzhniki stadium is set to host the final, while Mutko has also said that St. Petersburg is guaranteed a semifinal.