Wednesday 29 November 2017, 15:14

Russia’s football capital awaits the Final Draw

  • The Final Draw of Russia 2018 takes place in Moscow on Friday 1 December

  • The Russian capital has hosted both the UEFA Cup final and Champions League final

  • Lev Yashin is the most famous player to come from Moscow

Without question, the eyes of the footballing world will be on Moscow this week, as the 32 competing nations at the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia™ discover their group-stage opponents on Friday 1 December. Millions of football fans will be watching on with baited breath, waiting to map out their favourite team’s path through the tournament.

However, the Russian capital, which celebrated its 870th anniversary in September, is no stranger to football fever. This huge, sprawling city fell in love with the sport way back in Soviet times, and the relationship endures to this day.

Big clubs It is thought football was first brought to Moscow in 1885: newspapers from that year reported of travelling English colonialists playing football in the city. The city’s first club was founded in 1905 and a league was set up in Moscow in 1909. Since then, the sport’s popularity in the city has continued to grow and Moscow has always had the most clubs in the top flights of Soviet and Russian football.

Currently, four Moscow clubs play in the Russian Premier League: CSKA, Spartak, Lokomotiv and Dynamo, each one boasting a newly-built modern stadium.

Great footballers The capital city has given the world of football no shortage of great players. Legendary goalkeeper Lev Yashin is undoubtedly the most famous footballer to come out of Moscow. However, Valentin Ivanov - one of the best strikers at the 1960 European Championship that was won by the Soviet Union, Albert Shesternyov - who reached the semi-finals of the 1966 World Cup, and Valery Voronin - one of the best midfielders of his generation - were Moscow natives as well. All three were important members of the USSR national team. Russia’s all-time appearance leader, Sergei Ignashevich, also hails from Moscow.

Dramatic finals Many top-class football stars have played in Moscow, as the city has hosted numerous major club and international fixtures. In May 1999, Parma and Marseille contested the UEFA Cup final at the Luzhniki Stadium, where Gianluigi Buffon won his first international title in a 3-0 victory. The same arena was the setting for the gripping UEFA Champions League final between Manchester United and Chelsea in 2008. Former Red Devils talisman Cristiano Ronaldo has characterised that triumph as one of the happiest moments in his career.

Back in 1985, a number of important ties at the FIFA World Youth Championship were held in Moscow, including the final between Brazil and Spain (1-0). This was the first of many trophies that Claudio Taffarel lifted in the Seleção shirt. Next year, the goalkeeping great could return to a city that holds happy memories for him, with the hope that he is successful once again as assistant to head coach Tite.

The whole of Moscow is waiting with anticipation for the World Cup next year and the city is already perfectly poised to become the centre of attention this Friday for the Final Draw.

Major footballing events in Moscow

  • 1985 FIFA World Youth Championship final: Brazil 1-0 Spain

  • 1999 UEFA Cup final: Parma 3-0 Marseille

  • 2008 UEFA Champions League final: Manchester United 1-1 Chelsea (6-5 on penalties)

  • 2017 FIFA Confederations Cup play-off for third place: Portugal 2-1 Mexico

  • Russia 2018 Final Draw on 1 December 2017

  • Russia 2018 Opening Match on 14 June 2018 and Final on 15 July 2018