Russian bid asks FIFA to help build new country

ZURICH - Russia invited FIFA to bury old stereotypes and help build a new country as it closed out Thursday's presentations of candidates to host the 2018 World Cup.

Russia's final pitch included a video featuring a small boy called Sasha who dreamed he scored the winning goal in the World Cup final against Italy. Another video featured footballs raining down on the country.

With Vladimir Putin choosing not to take part, First Deputy Prime Minister Igor Shuvalov concluded a presentation held just before FIFA's 22 executive committee members were to decide on the hosts for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups. Russia is up against England and joint-bids from Netherlands/Belgium and Spain/Portugal.

"Russia has had many tragic days and history in the last century," he said. "But for 20 years we have been building a new country. We can achieve that better and quicker with your help."

Alexei Sorokin, the bid's CEO, quoted Winston Churchill's famous description of Russia as "a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma".

He said: "We can understand this perception that foreigners have but it's a Russia... that no longer exits."

There were also speeches from Olympic pole vault champion Yelena Isinbayeva and Andrei Arshavin, captain of the Russian national side, the latter recalling how he had a troubled childhood before football put him straight.

Isinbayeva said: "I broke 27 world records in the pole vault, most of the time one centimetre by one. Hosting the 2018 World Cup in Russia would be like setting another world record but the entire country of Russia will achieve it one big leap."