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Russia World Cup 2018: Another score for powerful Putin?

Russia's sports minister likened the geopolitical impact of Russia hosting the 2018 World Cup to the tearing down of the Berlin Wall.

In this Nov. 30 photo, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin is shown during an interview recording with the CNN host Larry King (unseen) in Moscow. Mr. Putin explained Russia's hopes, and slammed the allegations of corruption – against Britain as well as Russia – that marred the hard-fought battle to win its bid to host the 2018 World Cup.

Alexei Nikolsky/RIA-Novosti/AFP/Newscom

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There was mass exultation in Moscow late Thursday after news broke that Russia has won its bid to host the 2018 World Cup, the first time an eastern European country has ever achieved that honor.

"We go to new lands," Sepp Blatter, president of soccer's governing world body, FIFA, declared as he announced the cliffhanger decision by the organization's 22-member executive committee in Zurich.

For Russians, who love soccer, it looks like much more than a smart marketing decision by FIFA, which aims to expand beyond its traditional turf. Many immediately saw it as yet another indication that their former communist country has come in from the cold and finally gained acceptance as an important member of the European community.

"It is a huge victory for Russia and a big event for our soccer," says Vladimir Konstantinov, soccer expert with the popular Moscow daily Sport Express. "I hope in eight years' time we'll have a revolutionary new infrastructure for soccer, which we do not have now. This will give an impulse to the economic development of the country, development of transport, service. I have been to several soccer championships and it was always a colossal holiday for the people."

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