World Cup fever is starting to boil in Moscow. The draw takes place tomorrow and yesterday, all of the personalities from the world of football began arriving in the capital. This time, among the stars who will draw the balls from the pots is a Spaniard - Carles Puyol, the tireless warrior for Spain in the World Cup and Euros and a great captain for Barça with whom he won far too many honours to list here. I’m delighted that a representative from Spanish football will be involved in the ceremony. And I like that fact that Puyol has been elected, because he was an exemplary footballer, who retired literally when his body, racked with pain, told him his time was up. Puyol is a magnificent symbol of a glorious moment in the Spanish game.
Wednesday's rehearsals in Moscow
Yesterday was spent rehearsing the draw which produced some fascinating outcomes. In one of the practice runs, Argentina were drawn against Iceland and Saudi Arabia. That would have been an interesting group because we’d have seen Messi up against the budding Icelanders, who are a hard nut to crack. In another practice drill Portugal were pitted in the same group as Tunisia and Saudi Arabia. It gave us something to chat about on the eve of the real thing. For us, all eyes will be on what happens in Pot 2, because when that section was closed, Spain was eighth in the FIFA ranking, but that place in the Pot will go to Russia as the tournament hosts. After Spain’s last result, we are now sixth in the ranking which means we would have entered. It’s a shame that they couldn’t have waited a little longer.
Low demand from Spanish fans for 2018 tickets
The first phase of ticket sales has now been completed (the second phase starts after the draw) and Spain isn’t among the top 10 countries to have reserved tickets – unlike the big favourites: Brazil, Argentina and Germany. Could that be for a lack of faith, cashflow problems, or just a lack of foresight? The finals are still a long way off, and maybe it’s just one of those things. For some, there is the worry about how homosexuality is viewed in Russia and the hosts have already been advised about using discretion as to not cause any unwanted problems. But I have faith in football’s ability to unite – as it has done in all of the previous editions of the World Cup, and also its capacity to open the minds of those in a country which have different customs to our own.