STORE

Russians take sceptical view of World Cup

Polls suggest there is little faith in Russia succeeding when they host this summer's World Cup, and that general interest in the event is weak
AFP

Moscow (AFP) – Nearly every Russian football fan believes the World Cup hosts will make it out of their group for the time since the Soviet era.

But almost no one gives them a chance to win the trophy and just under half of respondents said they will not be watching any matches.

A study of Russia’s mood ahead of the June 14 kickoff published on Friday showed faith in the national team muted and interest weak.

The state-owned Public Opinion Foundation pollster said four percent of those who follow football think Russia can win their first World Cup.

A whopping 86 percent said the hosts will do well enough to finish in the top two of their four-team group and make the last 16.

Russia and Uruguay are odds-on favourites to progress from a Group A that includes Saudi Arabia and Egypt.

Moscow is officially spending $12 billion on a tournament Vladimir Putin helped wrest from England when the hosting rights were decided in 2010.

The prestige even offers the Kremlin a chance to burnish Russia’s global standing in the heat of a new standoff with the West.

It also plays into the patriotic message that has been the refrain of Putin’s 18 years in power — a sign of Russia regaining its Soviet-era might.

Yet the government’s own poll showed 43 percent of the respondents saying they did not plan to watch any games.

One in five only expressed interest in the ones played by Russia and less than a third intended to follow the whole thing.

The majority said they still supported the idea of the showpiece coming to their country for the first time.

The largest number of those who approved — 14 percent — said the World Cup would “raise Russia’s authority in the world”.

It is a message now being repeated on state-controlled TV channels and by lawmakers of all stripes.

Yet the number of people who thought the event will help lift Russia’s economy out of the doldrums fell from 39 percent in 2014 to 35 percent this year.

Russia has faced four years of Western economic sanctions over its actions in Ukraine.

And just two percent thought all the World Cup spending would help improve their cities’ infrastructure.

That response fell within the poll’s margin of error of 3.6 percentage points.

Russia has qualified for three World Cups as an independent nation and has never made the knockout stage.

The Soviet Union’s best performance was a fourth place finish in 1966.

Bookmakers put Russia’s odds of winning at about 40 to 1.

.