Untold billions of dollars spent on new football stadiums. Lavish spending on football players. The hiring of some of Europe’s most expensive and prestigious coaches.
The Russian team has never been weaker in its entire history.
My guess is that Russia will probably eke out second place in its laughably weak (and hilariously improbable) group, and will be put out of its misery by Spain or Portugal as soon as it’s out of the group stages.
However, we can’t exclude that Russia will fail to beat laughably weak Egypt and/or Saudi Arabia. 538 gives a 27% chance that Russia will fail to even pass the group stage.
There’s no reason to be mad about this. Climatic factors mean that Russians are simply not cut out for football, as I explained in Why Is Russia Bad at Football?
Still, the kremlins are obsessed with big sporting events, because (in their cargo cult minds) it helps raise the country’s “prestige”, and perhaps more importantly, helps fatten their friends’ wallets. At almost $10 billion, Russia spent more on stadium construction than any previous FIFA World Cup host – Korea/Japan in 2002, South Africa in 2010, and Brazil in 2014 all spent around $6 billion on stadiums. This overspending comes on the heels of the most expensive Olympics in history, the Sochi Winter Olympics in 2014 – a vanity project that has only been rivaled by the white elephants in the Gulf Arab monarchies in the 21st century.
Robbie Williams is going to be performing at the opening ceremony, and no doubt getting paid millions if not tens of millions for “selling his soul” to the “dictator Putin.” Meanwhile, FIFA has banned pro-Donbass singer Yulia Chicherina from performing at the opening ceremonies in Rostov on Don, with official Russia not uttering a word of complaint about that.
In short, this is not Russia’s World Cup.
It is the World Cup of Putin, of the Rotenbergs, of Robbie Williams and sundry washed up foreign celebrities, of the Russian bureaucracy, of the FIFA bureaucracy, and of the Western media that symbiotically feeds off all of them.
Russia will probably fail humiliatingly, and I couldn’t care less.