The eve of the World Cup means the start of our daily podcast from Russia, which we kick off from Moscow less than 24 hours before the vote to determine the host of the 2026 World Cup.
We give our opening impressions of the host nation, our thoughts about the pending vote and are also joined by Russian great Andrei Arshavin, who led Russia to the Euro 2008 semifinals, is overjoyed to have the World Cup taking place in his native land and gives his thoughts on the current Russian national team.
Listen to the full episode below, and be sure to subscribe to our podcast on iTunes to hear each and every episode throughout the 2018 World Cup.
Here's a selection of episode one from the Russian capital, which can be listened to in its entirety in the podcast console above:
GRANT WAHL: Obviously no soccer until Thursday, that's going to be Russia vs. Saudi Arabia, the big showdown between the two worst teams in this tournament, but there's another big day coming on Wednesday for the United States in particular, as the USA is not involved in this World Cup on the field. We're going to find out if the United bid of the U.S., Mexico and Canada either beats or loses to Morocco on Wednesday.
BRIAN STRAUS: Is none of the above still technically an option?
GW: Oh yeah, though everybody I talk to here says not likely at all.
BS: I mean who would do that? Because then we've got to go through this whole stupid thing again. If you vote for a none of the above, you're essentially saying "I haven't had enough World Cup bidding politics. I want more World Cup bidding politics."
GW: It should be a close vote, though, from what I'm hearing between the United bid from North America and Morocco, and the fact that it could be a close vote is kind of crazy if you're looking at rational thought. I'm not stanning for the U.S. here, I'm just saying based on the proposals and not wanting to waste $16 billion on new stadiums and infrastructure in Morocco that won't get used afterward, it seems to make sense facility-wise to come to North America.
BS: We've talked about it before. There are a few reasons an indivudal nation might vote for Morocco. One is not necessarily voting for Morocco but voting against the United bid (read: the United States), for whatever political or moral or social reason. Another is the fact that if you are a country that cares about relationships with broadcasters and you are in Europe or Africa or Asia, you might rather have the World Cup played at a more convenient time than it would be if it was in the U.S., where games in the evening–if you remember in '94, game were played at times suitable for the European market. I can't imagine that'd be the case again. They're not going to be playing games in June and July at 1 p.m.
GW: I remember noon eastern kickoffs in Orlando and it was insane temperature and humidity.
BS: The third reason is really cynical but true, which is that Morocco needs to build $16 billion worth of infrastructure, and there are companies that are going to get those contracts.
GW: Which brings us to France, whose federation has already come out and said not only are we going to support Morocco, presumably people think because of several of the reasons you just mentioned but also because French banks, French construction companies stand to make crazy money from $16 billion of infrastructure president. But also, the French president today said, "I'm going to lobby as many of you in UEFA as I can to vote for Morocco," and think about this. The French killed the U.S. bid for 2022 when Michel Platini switched from the U.S. to Qatar and brought at least two or three or four votes on that Executive Committee with him, which swung that election in 2010. Here are the French again. If the U.S.-led bid does lose, that would be one of the main reasons.
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