Russia unveils bid to host World Cup

MOSCOW - Just a few steps away from Red Square, with the Kremlin walls in the background, Russia unveiled its ambitious bid to host the 2018 or 2022 World Cup on Friday.

Russia's Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko said his team was prepared to do whatever it took to bring football's most prestigious event to the world's largest country for the first time.

"This is a historic occasion for Russia and Russian football," Mutko, who also serves as president of the Russian FA, told a news conference on the eve of his country's World Cup qualifier against Germany.

"It's also a unique opportunity for FIFA because Russia has a huge potential to develop the game in a huge region that spreads over two continents, Europe and Asia."

Russia take on Germany in their top-of-the-table clash in Moscow on Saturday, with the visitors clinching an automatic place at next year's finals in South Africa if they win. A win for Russia would put them in the driving seat with one round to go.

The 2014 tournament will be held in Brazil and football's world governing body FIFA will announce the 2018 and 2022 hosts in December 2010.

While Russia lags behind some other bidders, such as England and the United States, in terms of the infrastructure, Mutko said he had a powerful ally in FIFA President Sepp Blatter.

FIFA PHILOSOPHY

"FIFA has the right philosophy," Mutko said, referring to its decision to award the 2010 tournament to South Africa.

"They must give different countries and continents a chance to stage World Cups to make the game even more popular around the world. We're allies with Blatter in that regard," he said.

"The International Olympic Committee has shown the same philosophy by awarding the 2016 Summer Games to Rio de Janeiro."

Blatter plans a two-day visit to Moscow in the next few days to meet Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and other top government officials for talks on the country's World Cup bid.

Russia's plan calls for the use of 14 host cities with a total of 15 stadiums in four separate geographical clusters.

Russia currently has only one stadium, Moscow's 80,000-seat Luzhniki, the site of last year's Champions League final, capable of hosting World Cup matches.

Mutko said, however, he had received government guarantees to build new stadiums and all the necessary infrastructure.

"St Petersburg is already building a 60,000-seat stadium for Zenit, Sochi and Kazan also have plans for brand new arenas."

Mutko also presented former Soviet goalkeeper Rinat Dasayev as the first ambassador of the Russian bid.

"It's a great honour and privilege to be involved in this project, trying to bring the World Cup to my home country for the first time," said Dasayev, who played in three World Cups from 1982 to 1990.