Putin backs Spain at World Cup; Russia to ‘fight to finish’

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MOSCOW (AP) Russian President Vladimir Putin has tipped Argentina, Brazil, Germany and Spain as his top four contenders to win the World Cup, which starts in Russia on June 14.

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Putin says Spain has “played a beautiful brand of football,” in an interview with China Media Group, a transcript of which was published on the Kremlin website.

Putin adds “there will certainly be other contenders, but only the best will win.”

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The Russian national team is in dismal form without a win in seven games, which hasn’t gone unnoticed in the Kremlin.

Putin says “sadly, our team has not enjoyed great results lately. But we, all the fans and football lovers in Russia, have high hopes that our team will make a good showing, play a modern, interesting and beautiful style of football, and fight to the finish.”