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Is Russia ready for the 2018 World Cup?

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4) ST. PETERSBURG

Given it came in at more than 500 per cent of the initial budget and opened eight years behind schedule, competition organisers in St Petersburg really could have done without the pitch at Krestovsky Stadium not being up to standard.

Teams at the Confederations Cup conducted pre-match training sessions elsewhere to spare the surface and, although it held up well enough during a pulsating final, all eyes will be on how it copes when Zenit play a first full season there before the World Cup.

The stadium is strikingly impressive – a relief given its vast expense – and the surrounding Kirov Park makes for a wonderful pre-game walk up to the ground. It will be one of the places to be to soak it all up during Russia 2018.

The same could be said of the St Petersburg fanzone, which was boldly pitched in the shadow of the Church of Our Saviour on Spilled Blood. The intricate, ornate and vividly coloured domes of the church – built along the Griboedov Canal on the site where Alexandar II was assassinated – is one of the city's most cherished landmarks and provides a lavish backdrop to an evening of big-screen football.

Breathtaking architecture is the calling card of a dazzling city centre. The Winter Palace, now home to the Hermitage Museum, is another highlight of a place steeped in art and culture.

A stroll around the beautifully kept Summer Garden further underlines that, of all the Russia 2018 hosts, this is the place where travelling fans from western countries will feel most quickly at home. St Petersburg bears instant comparison to the great European cities.

Additionally, the tournament falls within St Petersburg's "White Nights", where daylight almost spans 24 hours and the city benefits from a celebratory feel and stunning twilight vistas.

Now, if only they could sort that pitch out…


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Edited by Staff Editor
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