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World Cup fever builds as fans, teams pour into Russia

AFP  |  Kazan (Russia) 

Cup fever is finally taking hold in Russia, where wild enthusiasm in provincial centres such as chilly is filtering through to ahead of Thursday's opening match in the capital.

While curious locals have clamoured to see the likes of and Neymar, it has proved a slow build-up to the June 14-July 15 showpiece, which is being held in for the first time.

The tournament opener featuring and at the imposing 80,000-capacity has so far failed to capture the imagination of Muscovites, although they have warmly welcomed foreign fans.

Groups of South American supporters with drums and whistles took to the streets around this week, posing for pictures with shoppers.

In response, a small knot of local fans gathered, waving flags and good-naturedly chanting "Russia, Russia".

But it has been outside the capital where enthusiasm for the beautiful game has really taken hold.

were pleasantly surprised Monday when a crowd of 3,200 turned up to see Dutch put the Socceroos through their paces in Kazan, a two-hour flight east of

A public holiday gave fans the opportunity to show their support at Australia's state-of-the-art training complex in the capital of the semi-autonomous Republic of Tatarstan.

"It was good to see all the fans from come out and support us, we didn't really expect it," said defender Josh Risdon, who postponed his honeymoon following his selection to the Socceroos' squad.

"Aussie, Aussie, Aussie, Go, Go, Go," screamed sections of the crowd, many waving yellow and green flags handed out by organisers.

Defender appreciated the backing ahead of Australia's Group C campaign against Euro 2016 finalists at the Arena on Saturday.

"It was good to see all the fans from Kazan come out and support us, we didn't really expect it," said the player, who postponed his honeymoon following his selection to the Socceroos' squad.

- pulling power -


In the resort city of about 5,000 people turned out to watch the Brazilian squad train, chanting the name of Paris Saint-Germain star Neymar.

had barely touched down in before they launched a charm offensive that won over supporters at Roshchino outside Saint Petersburg.

Hours after arriving they staged a training session where free footballs, scarves and flags were launched into the stands.

also exchanged passes with delighted youngsters.

The build up has not been without controversy, with Egypt's attracting critical headlines in Britain after posing for a photograph with Chechen strongman

Reports said Kadyrov, who with Moscow's support rules with an iron fist, personally picked up the Liverpool, striker at his team hotel in and drove him to training in front of 8,000 cheering fans.

While the atmosphere remains muted in the larger of the 11 host cities such as St Petersburg, it is sure to intensify as an estimated one million fans from 32 participating nations pour into the country.

said in a televised address last week that he wanted the event, which has cost Russia USD 13 billion to host, to be "an unforgettable experience" for all involved. "We want this event to be a celebration, filled with passion and emotions," he said.

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Wed, June 13 2018. 15:55 IST