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President revels in Russian success

Russian president Dmitry Medvedev has welcomed the news that the 2018 World Cup is coming to his country but has immediately turned his focus to delivering the event.

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The Russian bid saw off competition from England, Spain/Portugal and Holland/Belgium in Zurich despite the absence of Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, who is now flying to FIFA headquarters in Switzerland.

Medvedev was quick to commend the bid team's success though. Writing on his Twitter account, Medvedev said: "Victory. We got it! Russia will host the 2018 FIFA World Cup! Now we need to prepare for it and I hope our team will do well too."

Deputy Prime Minister Igor Shuvalov, clutching a replica of the World Cup trophy on stage moments after Sepp Blatter made the announcement, told the crowd: "To have entrusted us with the World Cup for will never regret it. Let us make history together."

Fans were also rejoicing at the news, with Alexander Shprygin, the head of Russia's official football supporters group, telling The Moscow News that the World Cup put even the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics in the shade.

"This is huge for us," said Shprygin. "We've been waiting for this announcement for two years, when fans first spoke with sports minister Vitaly Mutko about it. It's a symbol, a landmark and a bigger stimulus than the 2014 Olympics. It's a national leap, a national project."

Guus Hiddink, who was part of the beaten Holland/Belgium bid but coached Russia between 2006 and 2010, said the World Cup will be hugely beneficial for the country.

"I was in Zurich to promote the Holland/Belgium bid so I am disappointed that Russia has won," he said. "But if anyone other than us had to win it, I would have chosen Russia.

"This is a huge boost for football there. For all those beautiful stadiums and for the Russian economy. It could very well be that many international companies will invest there now."

Ruud Gullit, chairman of Holland and Belgium's joint bid, was more subdued after learning they had missed out on the right to stage the 2018 event.

"I'm certainly disappointed," he said. "Today I had the feeling that we could get it. We put down a good bid and presentation, but apparently it wasn't good enough for the executive committee."

And Belgium's assistant coach, Marc Wilmots, was critical of the decision to hand Russia and Qatar, who will stage the 2022 event, the hosting rights.

"Russia is a political choice, Qatar an economic one," he said. "We could say that the biggest loser here is sport in the allocation of the World Cups. Everyone knows from the start there will be more losers than winners. We fall into that first category but we must remain sporting and accept our defeat with dignity."


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