The Kaliningrad Stadium which will host the 2018 FIFA World Cup matches

Ex-Russia Defender Explains Why Country's Team Not the Weakest at FIFA World Cup

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MOSCOW (Sputnik) - Any team may produce a successful performance at the FIFA World Cup in Russia, including the hosts, former Russia defender Dmitriy Khlestov told Sputnik on Wednesday.

"I don't agree with those who say that Russia are the weakest team at the tournament. I see it like this, there will be five to six World Cup favorites who will fight for the trophy. The rest are on equal terms, some of them will play well, some won't. Russia could be among these teams," Khlestov said.

He added that if Russia did not reach the knockout stage it would be in no way a disaster for the Russian football.

READ MORE: Over 50,000 People Took Photos With FIFA World Cup Trophy in St. Petersburg

The Russian national team have played at three FIFA World Cups so far but have never made it past the group stage, while the Soviet Union claimed fourth place at the 1966 World Cup in England.

Hosts Russia will take on Saudi Arabia in the opening match of the World Cup on June 14 before facing their other two opponents in Group A, Egypt and Uruguay.

'Hope for Miracle'

However, some other experts express the opposite opinion. Thus, former Amkar Perm and Kazakhstan defender Aleksey Popov told Sputnik on Wednesday that given Russia's recent friendly results, the country should "hope for a miracle" at the FIFA World Cup.

Russia was held to a 1-1 draw by Turkey in their warm-up game ahead of the World Cup at the CSKA Arena in Moscow on Tuesday, less than a week after losing to Austria 1-0 on May 30.

"We have nothing left but to hope for the best and hope for a miracle. Yesterday the team had to show their maximum… and show that they are ready for the World Cup. The young Turkish players played as well as ours even though they were getting their suitcases packed and waiting to go on holiday," Popov said.

He added that Russia's supporters were disappointed with the team's performances and would be happy if the team did well at the World Cup.

"Everyone would be happy if Russia gets past the group stage. At the moment the fans are frustrated. The Soviet and Russian teams used to be champions in international friendlies, and now we can't even defeat anybody," Popov said.

Russia's first-ever FIFA World Cup will take place from June 14 to July 15 in 11 cities across the country, Moscow, Kaliningrad, St. Petersburg, Volgograd, Kazan, Nizhny Novgorod, Samara, Saransk, Rostov-on-Don, Sochi and Yekaterinburg.


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