MOSCOW, September 29 (RIA Novosti)
- FIFA to Announce 2018 World Cup Host Cities Live
- Russia 2018: Nizhny Novgorod Snaps Into Action
- Russia 2018: Saransk Battles for Host Status at Seminar
- Russian Exclave Confident on 2018 World Cup Chances
(UPDATES with Mutko quotes)
Two Russian cities from an initial list of 13 candidates to host the 2018 World Cup are to be dropped later Saturday as football's governing body FIFA announces the final locations for the tournament.
Russia stages the competition for the first time in 2018, and will use 12 arenas in 11 cities to do it.
Eight cities including Moscow, St. Petersburg and Sochi are all but guaranteed to remain on the list, which is to be announced live on Russian television at 21:20 local time (1720GMT).
But Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko earlier this month warned the cities of Saransk, Volgograd, Yaroslavl, Kaliningrad and Rostov-on-Don had "several problems" that may kill their bid.
"For the cities that miss out, this doesn't mean that somebody didn't do their job," Mutko said in televised comments. "We want to show a new Russia, a developed Russia."
Moscow should host the final at a refurbished Luzhniki Stadium, with proposed new arenas for Dynamo and Spartak hoping to share the capital's World Cup fixtures.
St. Petersburg is likely to be given a semifinal at Zenit's new stadium, which should be completed by 2014.
Sochi is expected to host games in the Fisht Olympic Stadium that will be used for the opening ceremony of the 2014 Winter Games.
Russia beat England and joint bids from Spain and Portugal and the Netherlands and Belgium to win right to stage the event.
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The growing outright rivalry between the United States and China gives Russia more foreign policy weight, enabling it to assume the role of a balancer. So far it has been doing so rather skillfully. Today it may participate in a joint naval exercise with China that Beijing positions as outwardly anti-American. But tomorrow it can team up with the naval forces of the Old World.