Warm welcome on Baltic Sea as England settle in to World Cup routine

by Theguardian


Luxury mattresses have been shipped to the team hotel and family photos put up by the FA but heat of Volgograd is a worry

At least England’s footballers are getting an easier ride than their Russian counterparts right now. “Destined for defeat” was the headline in Wednesday’s edition of the Moscow Times, complete with a team photograph of these apparent no-hopers. Vladimir Putin, Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un were all bumped off the front page for the newspaper to make its point: “Ageing and inexperienced: why Russia is doomed to fail.”

Four hundred and fifty miles north-east on the Gulf of Finland, the mood was considerably lighter. Teenage locals with foam hands showed the guests to their seats for England’s first training session at the Stadium Spartak Zelenogorsk, set in a pine forest close to the Baltic Sea. People from the village came with gifts – bread, salt and a golden teapot – and the players were only an hour or so late for the reception. “Applaud to keep warm,” came the message from the woman with the microphone, as the wind picked up and the temperatures dropped.

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