KAZAN, July 14. /TASS/. The Ukrainian national football team will be comfortably accommodated by Russia during the 2018 FIFA World Cup in case it qualifies for the much-anticipated world’s quadrennial football event, Russian Deputy Prime Minister Vitaly Mutko said on Friday.
"First of all, they [Ukraine] need to qualify," Mutko, who is also the president of the Russian Football Union (RFU), told journalists. "We wish them all the best, because the (qualifying) group they are playing in has very strong opponents."
A total of nine qualifying groups in the European zone were put together at the 2018 FIFA World Cup Draw, held in St. Petersburg two years. Ukraine was placed in Group I alongside with teams from Turkey, Croatia, Iceland, Finland and Kosovo.
"We welcome everyone here. I would like to say that if Ukraine qualifies for the World Cup in Russia, they will have no problems here whatsoever," Mutko added.
Russia’s daily Izvestia reported late last month that the Ukrainian football team was likely to boycott the global football championship since it was hosted by Russia. Relations between the two former Soviet neighbors have been strained over the past few years due to their ongoing rift.
With six qualifying matches already played in Group I, the Ukrainian national team, led by Head Coach Andrey Shevchenko, is in 4th place with 11 points, behind Turkey, which also packs 11 points at the moment, Iceland and Croatia (both having 13 points).
Russia is currently in full-swing preparations to host the 2018 FIFA World Cup. The country was granted the right for the football championship after winning the bid in Guatemala in December 2010. The victory came following a tight race against the bid from England, the joint bid from Portugal and Spain and the joint bid on behalf of Belgium and the Netherlands.
The country selected 11 host cities to be the venues for the matches of the 2018 World Cup and they are Moscow, St. Petersburg, Sochi, Kazan, Saransk, Kaliningrad, Volgograd, Rostov-on-Don, Nizhny Novgorod, Yekaterinburg and Samara.
The matches of the 2018 World Cup will be held between June 14 and July 15 at 12 stadiums located in the 11 mentioned above cities across Russia. Two of the stadiums are located in the Russian capital.