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Coronavirus, uncooperative Sochi forces Rostov to field teens in 10-1 loss

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SOCHI, Russia — A team of teenagers took the field for a club hit by the coronavirus pandemic and lost 10-1 as soccer in Russia restarted Friday.

FC Rostov was forced to send a squad with an average age of barely 17 to play against Sochi, two days after its entire first team was put into isolation over a suspected virus outbreak among six players.

Sochi refused to postpone the game, leaving Rostov a choice between fielding academy graduates or accepting defeat by default.

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A fairytale result was briefly on the cards as Roman Romanov gave Rostov the lead after 52 seconds with a low shot from the edge of the penalty area. Sochi soon hit back and finished with 10 goals, the most in league history, mostly scored by players with Russian national-team experience.

Rostov’s 17-year-old goalkeeper Denis Popov won widespread praise and was named man of the match. Despite conceding a record number of goals, he stopped a penalty and also set a new league record for most saves in a game with 15.

It was “sad that we lost by such a big score, but we got a lot of experience,” Popov said on his club’s website.

Hours later, Rostov’s fans welcomed the team bus home with flags and flares at the roadside.

“Well done to our kids, they’re real beauties. The rest isn’t important. These lads are champions of the future,” club president Artashes Arutyunyants said.

Still, the defeat is a blow to Rostov’s hopes of reaching the Champions League next season. It is fourth in the table, with the top three qualifying.

The Russian Premier League resumed Friday after more than three months, with a limited number of fans in stadiums. Supporters were allowed in up to 10 percent of capacity and asked to sit apart.

Sochi is a summer and winter tourist attraction

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MOSCOW (AP) Visiting Sochi is a mouthwatering prospect for World Cup fans, with beaches, blue skies and arguably the best game in the group stage.

Portugal and Spain meet on June 15 in Sochi, which hosted the 2014 Winter Olympics and is a top Russian tourist destination.

The legacy of the estimated $50 billion spent on those Sochi Games is a variety of tourist options. Fans will be able to relax in the beach bars of Adler, a town near the stadium, or hike in the mountains above the city.

Here’s what you need to know about one of the 11 host cities in Russia:

THE STADIUM

The 48,000-seat Fisht Stadium was built to host the lavish opening and closing ceremonies of the 2014 Olympics. Ironically, in light of the later doping scandals, the Russian team entered the opening ceremony to a song entitled “Not Gonna Get Us.”

Since then, it’s been largely empty apart from hosting occasional friendlies and a Russian Cup final. The local club team, FC Sochi, withdrew from the league at the end of the 2016-17 season, though officials are hopeful of setting up a replacement team so the stadium doesn’t lie empty.

WHAT TO KNOW

World Cup organizers are offering free train tickets to fans, but it will be a stretch to get to Sochi, with many services taking more than 30 hours from Moscow. Long train journeys are a Russian tradition – and a good way to meet locals – but you would miss out on watching World Cup games.

Sochi was conquered in the 19th century by the Russian army, which drove out most of the native Circassian people. Later on, it became famous as the site of sanatoriums for the sick, Soviet leader Joseph Stalin’s summer house and most recently the Olympics.

WHAT TO DO

If you’re flying into Sochi airport, you will probably have no need to go to the main city of Sochi, 24 kilometers (15 miles) up the road.

Instead, the area around the Olympic Park is packed with hotels, and the neighboring suburb of Adler has sandy beaches and cafes galore. The Caucasus Mountains above Sochi are big hits with hikers in summer and skiers in winter.

In an unusual twist, the laboratory at the center of Russia’s Olympic doping scheme is now a bar with doping-themed cocktails .

WHAT TO WATCH

Sochi will host six matches during the World Cup, starting with Spain and Portugal on June 15 in Group B.

Belgium will take on Panama in Group G on June 18, and defending champion Germany will then arrive to play Sweden in Group F on June 23.

The final group match will be between Australia and Peru on June 26 in Group C.

In the latter stages, there will be a round of 16 game on June 30 and a quarterfinal match on July 7.

More AP World Cup coverage: http://www.apnews.com/tag/WorldCup

Sochi stadium rebuild completed for World Cup in 2018

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MOSCOW (AP) Officials overseeing World Cup preparations in the southern Russian city of Sochi say construction work on the city’s stadium has finished on time.

The stadium held the opening and closing ceremonies of the 2014 Winter Olympics, but has yet to host a soccer game because it needed extensive modifications to remove a temporary roof and increase capacity from 40,000 to 47,700.

Sochi is one of four host cities for next year’s Confederations Cup, a World Cup warm-up tournament.

Regional officials also say 150 Cossacks will be drafted in to help with Confederations Cup security. Cossacks, a paramilitary group dating back to Czarist times, attracted criticism when they provided security at the Sochi Olympics and used whips to break up a performance by opposition punk group Pussy Riot.

DPS: Landon Donovan discusses Mexico, qualifying for 2014, and his post World Cup future

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One day after scoring the second goal in the U.S.’s 2-0 win over Mexico, Landon Donovan was on the Dan Patrick Show, where the newly reintegrated national teamer did his best to coax the host to attending next year’s World Cup.

Patrick was initially resistant. He’s going to Sochi for the 2014 Winter Olympics, he said. He’d be in Rio for the 2016 Summer games. He did he have to go to Brazil in 2014 just to follow Landon?

Eventually, the two made a deal. In exchange for information about Donovan’s post-2014 future, Patrick ends up making him a promise. Along the way, the two talk about Donovan’s right eye (a point of interest in Columbus), the star’s winter sabbatical, and whether the United States needs the icon to succeed in next year’s finals.