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Putin, Infantino swap praise

MOSCOW: Russian President Vladimir Putin and FIFA President Gianni Infantino have praised each other's work preparing for the World Cup. Putin had a warm relationship with Sepp Blatter, who led FIFA when Russia was awarded the World Cup hosting rights in 2010. Blatter was ousted and banned in fallout of corruption scandals. Putin says Infantino "stood at the helm of FIFA in very complicated times but he is very good as our frontman, as a true fighter." While, Infantino praised Putin for "making us feel part of the same team" and thanked him "from our hearts."

Ezatolahi to miss opener

ST PETERSBURG: Iran's national football team on Wednesday were preparing for their opening FIFA World Cup game without star defensive midfielder Saeid Ezatolahi, who is serving a two-game ban.

Iran will take on Morocco in their first Group B match on Friday. The 21-year-old, who featured for Spanish giants Atletico Madrid at youth level, is the only player at the World Cup expected to miss their team's opening game due to suspension. FIFA's disciplinary committee had imposed a two-game suspension on Ezatolahi in October 2017 for violent conduct during a qualifying match on August 31 against South Korea in Seoul. Nicknamed the "Persian Pogba," Ezatolahi plays for FC Rostov in the German top division and is considered one of the most talented footballers in Asia.

FIFA hopes racism-free WC

MOSCOW: FIFA referees committee chairman Pierluigi Collina has said that he hopes there will be no incidents of racism at the upcoming 2018 World Cup. "It would be great if nothing will occur during the competition as well as during every match all over the world because having mixed sport and racism, something that nobody can understand and, of course, accept. So, hopefully, it won't be the case," Collina told journalists on Tuesday.  "But if something should happen there is a clear procedure, the so-called 'three-step procedure'. Referees know it very well and, of course, they are ready to go through the different steps when needed," he added.

 Sweden keep 'focus' on WC

GELENDZHIK: Sweden have moved on from the Zlatan Ibrahimovic era and are focusing only on the World Cup, team captain Andreas Granqvist said after arriving at their Black Sea coast team base. The 36-year-old Swedish icon retired from the national team after Euro 2016 but speculation lingered in the run-up to the squad announcement last month that the former Juventus, AC Milan, Barcelona and Manchester United striker could make an international comeback. "Zlatan has been the best player for Sweden for many years, but after the European Championships he said that he would finish with the international team, we respected his answer," said Granqvist in Gelendzhik after the team's first training session. "We must focus on us, we are here now, the squad that has been selected is the one that will play," the 33-year-old Krasnodar defender said.

 

               

 
 
 
 
 

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