2018 World Cup: Russia to stage soccer showpiece

Updated 2:16 PM ET, Sat July 25, 2015
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Russian president Vladimir Putin and FIFA president Sepp Blatter open proceedings at the preliminary draw for the 2018 World Cup. Shaun Botterill/Getty Images
Singer Polina Gagarina and conductor Valery Gergiev perform at the ceremony to mark the preliminary draw for the 2018 World Cup. Shaun Botterill/Getty Images
FIFA official Christian Unger plays his part in Saturday's draw. Olga Maltseva/AFP/Getty Images
Putin and Blatter (back right) have forged a close relationship. The Swiss has led FIFA since 1998 but decided to stand down on June 2 as football's world governing body battled two corruption scandals. PEDRO UGARTE/AFP/Getty Images
Visiting FIFA officials have been made to feel welcome at the Konstantin Palace. Olga Maltseva/AFP/Getty Images
Russia has had to face more questions over its record in stamping out racism after Ghanaian footballer Emmanuel Frimpong claimed he was subjected to monkey chants from Spartak Moscow fans during the opening of the Russian Premier League season. Epsilon/Getty Images/file
Zenit St. Petersburg's Brazilian striker Hulk has recently said racism happens at "almost every game" in the Russian league. Hulk had been named in the team of draw assistants for Saturday's event, which also included the likes of Brazilian great Ronaldo, Uruguay's Diego Forlan, Fabio Cannavaro of Italy and Cameroon's Samuel Eto'o, but FIFA said Friday due to his club commitments the Zenit star had been replaced by former Russia captain Alexey Smertin. AFP/Getty Images
Zenit's new stadium is still under construction. With a capacity of nearly 67,000 people, it's one of 12 stadiums hosting games at the 2018 tournament. The opening and final match will be staged at Moscow's Luzhniki Stadium. Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images
The Otkrytie Arena is Spartak Moscow's recently opened new home. Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images
A new, state-of-the-art, 40,000-capacity stadium is being built in Saransk in central Russia. Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)
Sochi, which hosted the 2014 Winter Olympics, will also stage games at the 2018 World Cup. Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images
Qualifying games for the 2018 World Cup started ahead of the preliminary draw in confederations such as CONCACAF and Asia, with Bhutan pictured here in action against China. Diptendu Dutta/AFP/Getty Images/file
Germany is the World Cup holder. Here goalkeeper Manuel Neuer lifts the trophy after his team defeated Argentina 1-0 in extra time in the 2014 final in Brazil. Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images/file
Bored of football? You can always visit St. Petersburg's Faberge Museum ... Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images