Russia eye ‘successful start’ at World Cup

MOSCOW. — Hosts Russia expect a “successful start” at the FIFA World Cup, as they get the tournament rolling today against Saudi Arabia, with the entire globe watching them.

Russia’s Brazilian-born defender Mario Fernandes said they were hoping to have a success story.

The first match is at Moscow’s 81,000-seater Luzhniki Stadium today.

“We have a great team, we’re preparing for the World Cup matches every day. We expect to have a successful start at the tournament,” Fernandes told journalists.

The 27-year-old, who has been playing for CSKA Moscow in the Russian Premier League since 2012, spoke to the journalists through an interpreter, but said that he was making progress in learning Russian.

“I understand a lot already and when I don’t understand, someone helps me. But I know a lot already,” Fernandes added.

Fernandes was capped once for Brazil before becoming a Russian citizen and has subsequently made five international appearances for his new country since 2017, including a 1-0 friendly defeat at the hands of Austria on May 30 and a 1-1 draw against Turkey in the team’s final warm-up friendly on June 5.

Russia will host its first-ever FIFA World Cup

As the showcase starts, there’s only one question to ask: Who will have better World Cup Cristiano Ronaldo or Lionel Messi?

The two superstars who have dominated football for the past decade have won everything at club level but have yet to lead their respective countries to World Cup glory.

Each player is his country’s respective career scoring leader with Messi scoring 64 goals in 124 games and Ronaldo scoring 81 goals in 150 games.

Although failing to score at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa Messi won the golden ball at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil scoring four goals as Argentina were beaten in the final in extra-time by Germany.

Cristiano Ronaldo meanwhile could become only the fourth player along with Pele, Uwe Seeler and Miroslav Klose to score in four different World Cups.

The 33-year-old led Portugal to their first ever European Championship in 2016 although they are still viewed as outsiders to lift the World Cup trophy.

Rio Ferdinand: “It’s almost like whichever one of these two wins the World Cup, they cement themselves as the best player on the planet. Both of their stats are ridiculous, no one’s ever got near what they are doing. They are the two guys who are out there on their own at the moment as super-humans. If one of them gets their hands on that trophy I think everyone will clap their hands and raise their glass and say “right, that is the guy”.

Gary Lineker: “Massive Messi fan, I’ve made that very clear over the years I just think he brings absolute joy to football. Ronaldo’s a different animal. He’s right up there in terms of goal-scoring with Messi.”

Frank Lampard: “I’d love to see Messi really light up the World Cup. He doesn’t need to prove anything to any of us.”

Jermaine Jenas: “Messi practically single-handedly dragged his nation to the World Cup in the first place so I think he’ll be massively fired up for this one.” — FourFourTwo

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