With World Cup qualifying continuing and Russia 2018 beginning to come into focus, journalist and Russian soccer expert James Appell joins SI's Grant Wahl to discuss all aspects of the tournament, which will take the baton from Brazil 2014 in less than two years.
Appell, who spent years living in Russia and immersing himself in the country's soccer culture, discusses the murkiness behind the awarding of the competition to Russia; the planning and construction of the competition's stadiums; the exorbitant, record price for the new stadium in St. Petersburg; the expected treatment of minority and homosexual fans in and out of stadiums in the country; the fan culture; the poor state of Russia's national team; the many ties of the World Cup to Vladimir Putin and Russian politics and much more in a wide-ranging conversation.
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CONCACAF World Cup qualifying resumes in November, with the start of the final round, the Hexagonal. UEFA just began its qualifying tournament in September and continues next month, while CONMEBOL and Asia will continue their qualifying tournaments in October as well. Africa begins its final qualifying round in October, while Oceania does the same in November.