Majority of Americans think Trump mishandling Russia: Reuters/Ipsos poll

(Reuters) - More than half of Americans disapprove of the way U.S. President Donald Trump is handling relations with Russia, according to a Reuters/Ipsos poll conducted after his controversial summit and joint news conference with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

However, Trump’s performance at the Helsinki summit, where Trump refused to blame the Russian leader for meddling in the 2016 U.S. election and cast doubt on the findings of U.S. intelligence agencies, did not seem to have an impact on his overall approval rating.

Forty-two percent of registered voters said they approved of Trump’s performance in office in the latest opinion poll, compared with a daily average of between 40 and 44 percent so far in July.

The poll found that 55 percent of registered voters disapproved while 37 percent approved of his handling of relations with Russia.

Among Republicans, 71 percent approved of his handling of Russia compared to 14 percent of Democrats.

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Trump still enjoys broad support among Republican voters despite criticism from party leaders about his words and actions while standing alongside the Russian leader answering questions from reporters, the poll results showed.

Trump surprised even his supporters when he praised the Russian leader during the news conference for his “strong and powerful” denial of meddling.

On Tuesday, Trump attempted to calm the political storm following his remarks, saying he misspoke at the news conference and had full confidence in U.S. agencies. But he appeared to veer from his script to add: “It could be other people also - there’s a lot of people out there,” he said.

A majority of registered voters, 59 percent, agree with the conclusions of U.S. intelligence agencies that Russia attempted to influence the U.S. election, the Reuters/Ipsos poll found. But only 32 percent of Republicans think that is true compared to 84 percent of Democrats.

The Reuters/Ipsos poll also revealed a distinct split among Republican and Democratic voters over whether Russia should be considered an adversary of the United States.

Overall, 38 percent of registered voters agreed that Russia is an enemy of the United States. About the same percent considered Russia “a competitor” while 8 percent said it was “a friend.”

However, half the Democrats said it was an enemy while only about one in three Republicans considered it so.

Forty percent of Democrats described Russia as an imminent threat while only 14 percent of Republicans agreed.

Overall, 27 percent of registered voters considered Russia an imminent threat. Only North Korea got a higher response on that question, 31 percent.

The poll also asked Americans whether they think authorities will find evidence of an illegal relationship between the Trump administration and Russia. A slim majority, 51 percent, said it was likely, while 77 percent of Democrats and 19 percent of Republicans did.

The same general split was true when asked if Trump or someone from his campaign worked with Russia to influence the 2016 election. Overall, 52 percent of registered voters agreed. But 81 percent of Democrats said that was true versus 19 percent of Republicans.

The Reuters/Ipsos poll gathered responses from 1,011 registered voters throughout the United States, including 453 Republicans and 399 Democrats. The poll has a credibility interval, a measure of precision, of 4 percentage points.

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'Disgraceful,' 'Shameful': Trump's Defense Of Putin Finds Few Supporters

President Donald Trump's refusal Monday to denounce Russian President Vladimir Putin for interfering in the 2016 US presidential campaign sparked pointed criticism from Republican leaders, including several of Trump's legislative allies who warned that his actions could ultimately hurt national security interests.

At a joint news conference with Putin in Helsinki, Trump spoke admiringly of Putin's denials and said he did not "see any reason why" Russia would be a fault for election-year hacking, effectively siding with the Russian leader over the assessment of the US intelligence community.

Within hours of the event's conclusion, Republicans had joined Democrats in criticizing the president's comments. Many more in the president's party reasserted the findings of Russian culpability, distancing themselves from their leader.

"The president must appreciate that Russia is not our ally," said House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis. "The United States must be focused on holding Russia accountable and putting an end to its vile attacks on democracy."

Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-S.C., a Trump ally and a fierce critic of the FBI's investigation of election meddling, released a statement calling on top administration officials to tell Trump "it is possible to conclude Russia interfered with our election in 2016 without delegitimizing his electoral success."

Republican senators also were quick in their criticism of Trump's statements. "Shameful," tweeted Sen. Jeff Flake of Arizona. "Bizarre and flat-out wrong," wrote Sen. Ben Sasse of Nebraska in reference to Trump's separate assertion that both countries were to blame for their deteriorating relationship. "Missed opportunity," said Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, who added that Trump's answer "will be seen by Russia as a sign of weakness and create far more problems than it solves."

Since Trump's inauguration, members of his party on Capitol Hill have stifled much of their criticism of the president to preserve their own electoral viability and their ability to maintain private channels of communication with him. Trump's statements on Tuesday threatened that stance perhaps more than at any time since his defense last summer of Nazi sympathizers in Charlottesville during a dispute over Confederate statues.

At the Capitol on Monday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., declined to respond to a reporter's questions about whether he was disappointed with Trump's statements.

"As I have said repeatedly, the Russians are not our friends and I entirely agree with the assessment of our intelligence community," he said as he walked into the Senate chamber.

Some of the sharpest words Monday came from senators who have focused on foreign policy, a position that has often left them at odds with a president intent on upending traditional U.S. relationships.

Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., said Trump's comments made the United States look "like a pushover."

"I think sometimes he forgets the fact that these intelligence agencies report and work for him," Corker said. "Time and time again, he makes decisions not based on what's good for the country but how someone treats him. And that was very evident today."

In a statement, Republican Sen. John McCain who is being treated for brain cancer in his home state of Arizona, said: "Today's news conference in Helsinki was one of the most disgraceful performances by an American president in memory. No prior president has ever abased himself more abjectly before a tyrant."

Russia experts warned that Trump's refusal to blame Putin for the election interference would fulfill what U.S. prosecutors have described as a central Russian goal of its covert campaign in the United States: to sow domestic discord.

"We are now going to fight amongst ourselves," said Michael McFaul, who served as ambassador to Russia under President Barack Obama. "We are not going to develop strategies to counter Russia. We are going to be diminished on the playing field."

Trump has not demonstrated a similar concern, as he has worked to shift his party's foreign policy focus.

In 2012, Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney declared Russia the nation's "Number One geopolitical foe" - a position reflecting decades of Republican orthodoxy that was cheered at the time by conservatives who had criticized Obama for telling a Russian official that he would have "more flexibility" after his reelection.

When CBS News asked him on Saturday to identify the nation's "biggest foe" right now, Trump pointed to the European Union before mentioning Russia or China. (In a statement Monday, Romney, now running for a Senate seat in Utah, called Trump's words "disgraceful and detrimental to our democratic principles" and said his behavior "undermines our national integrity and impairs our global credibility.")

Yet Trump's stance has tilted public opinion, with Republicans becoming more favorable toward Russia.

A January poll by the Pew Research Center found that 38 percent of Republican-leaning voters viewed Russian power and influence as a major threat to the United States, down from 58 percent in 2015. By contrast, 63 percent of Democratic-leaning voters considered Russia as a major threat in January.

The nation's intelligence agencies, in a January 2017 assessment, concluded that Russians were responsible for stealing documents that were later released online from the Democratic National Committee and other senior Democratic officials. A federal criminal indictment was filed against a dozen Russians on Friday.

During the presidential campaign, Trump initially blamed the hacking of Democratic accounts on Democrats.

Even after winning the election, Trump refused to accept the view that Russia had targeted the campaign. "I don't believe it. I don't believe they interfered," he said weeks after his victory.

Since then, he has waffled, saying at times that it may have been Russia and at other times that he found Russian denials credible, as he did Monday. "I have great confidence in my intelligence people, but I will tell you that President Putin was extremely strong and powerful in his denial today," Trump said in Helsinki.

Last week, 97 senators voted for a nonbinding resolution that called for the Trump administration to "counter malign activities of Russia that seek to undermine faith in democratic institutions in the United States and around the world." Rand Paul, R-Ky., and Mike Lee, R-Utah, were the only senators to vote against the measure, which also reaffirmed the U.S. commitment to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. McCain, who was absent, did not vote.

"This is not one of these issues with respect to the intelligence community that is questionable or unsubstantiated," said Sen. Jack Reed, D-R.I., who wrote the resolution, noting that the Senate has been thoroughly briefed on the intelligence pointing to Russia's culpability. "And I have seldom heard any of my colleagues question that conclusion."

Former House speaker Newt Gingrich, R-Ga., a Trump ally whose wife serves as U.S. ambassador to the Vatican, wrote on Twitter on Monday afternoon that Trump must clarify his statements about Putin and the U.S. intelligence community.

"It is the most serious mistake of his presidency and must be corrected - immediately," Gingrich wrote.

  • Published in World

Trump And Putin To Hold First Summit Talks As Twitchy West Looks On

Helsinki: After months of exchanging long-distance compliments, Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin sit down on Monday for their first ever summit, a potential political minefield at home for the  US president but a geopolitical win for his Russian counterpart.

Neither side expects major breakthroughs from the talks in the Finnish capital beyond warm words, an agreement to begin repairing battered US-Russia relations, and maybe a deal to start talks on issues such as nuclear arms control and Syria.

The two men, who have praised each other's leadership qualities from afar, could also agree to start restocking their respective embassies and returning confiscated diplomatic property after a wave of expulsions and retaliatory action prompted by the poisoning of a former Russian spy in Britain.

Ahead of the summit, both sides talked down the event, however, with Trump telling CBS he was going in with "low expectations" and John Bolton, Trump's national security adviser, saying on ABC's "This Week" that the United States was not looking for "deliverables" and that the meeting would be "unstructured."

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told Russia's RT TV station that he also had low expectations. He would regard the summit as a success if there was an agreement to merely reopen severed lines of communications across the board, he said.

For Putin, the fact that the summit is even happening despite Russia's semi-pariah status among some Americans and  US allies is a geopolitical win because, in Russian eyes, it shows that Washington recognises Moscow as a great power whose interests must be taken into account.

For Russia, it is also a powerful sign that Western efforts to isolate Moscow have failed.

But for Trump, whose White House victory was actively supported by 12 Russian military intelligence agents, according to a recent  US indictment, and whose entourage is still being investigated for possible collusion with Moscow, the meeting is freighted with domestic political risk.

"We can say confidently that Putin's political risks are lower than those of President Trump," said Andrey Kortunov, head of RIAC, a Moscow think-tank close to the Russian Foreign Ministry.

"Putin has less to lose and more to gain because he does not have a domestic opposition, a potentially hostile legislature, and is not begin investigated like Trump. But if you look at the  US media they mostly focus on potential risks. Nobody there really believes that any good can come out of this summit."

A probe over allegations of Russian meddling in the 2016  US presidential election has clouded Trump's presidency. Trump has denied any collusion with the Russians by his campaign and Russia denies it meddled.

The Helsinki summit is the capstone to a nearly week-long trip for Trump during which he has sown doubts about his commitment to the NATO military alliance, Washington's so-called special relationship with Britain, and  US relations with the European Union that he called "a foe" in trade terms.

Against that backdrop and swirling uncertainty about what Trump might do or say next, his summit with Putin, which will include a one-on-one session with the Russian leader with only interpreters present, has both  US allies and  US politicians worried lest he make hasty and sweeping concessions.

 US Fears

Some politicians in the West believe the summit is happening at one of the most crucial junctures for the West since the 1991 fall of the Soviet Union. Certain NATO allies fear Putin might seek a grand deal that would undermine the  US-led transatlantic alliance.

Trump has said that he will raise the alleged Russian election meddling with Putin but does not expect to get anywhere, has spoken vaguely about the possibility of halting NATO war games in the Baltic region, and has said repeatedly that it would be good if he could get along with Russia.

When asked last month if he would recognise Russia's 2014 annexation of Ukraine's Crimea, he replied: "We're going to have to see."

On Friday, 12 Russians were indicted on charges of interfering in the  US 2016 election, a development that prompted some Democratic leaders to call on Trump to cancel the Putin meeting, a demand he quickly dismissed.

On the summit's eve, Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer, a political opponent of Trump, said he had told Secretary of State Mike Pompeo the Helsinki meeting was a mistake.

"First, I don't believe the meeting should take place but if it is going to happen, President Trump must press Putin hard on the issue of election interference. He can't simply raise it, accept Putin's denial and then let him off the hook," Schumer said in a statement.

"Second, the President must demand that the 12 Russians named in the indictment be sent to the  US to stand trial. And third, President Trump should not agree to weaken, lift, or curtail any of the sanctions on Russia."

Any Trump request for Russia to extradite hacking suspects is likely to fall on deaf ears, however, as the Kremlin, citing the Russian constitution, has a policy of not handing over suspects wanted by other countries.

Many Western politicians remain angry over Russia's annexation of Crimea, its backing of pro-Russian separatists in Ukraine, and its support for Syria's Bashar al-Assad.

Other accusations, denied by Moscow, include that it meddled in European politics, supplied the weapon that shot down a passenger plane in 2014 over Ukraine, and was behind the poisoning of the former Russian spy in Britain.

Moscow would love to have  US sanctions - initially imposed over the Crimea annexation - eased and eventually lifted. But most in Russia do not expect the summit to produce such an outcome.

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‘The best World Cup in history proved Russia to be truly a football country’ – FIFA President

Russia has hosted “the best” World Cup in history, which has changed the perception of the country around the world and proved it to be “truly” a football nation, FIFA President Gianni Infantino said, ahead of Sunday’s final.

“This World Cup has proved that Russia is a truly football country. Thank you, Russia, for hosting the best World Cup in history,” Infantino said, at a gala concert at Moscow's Bolshoi Theater, Sputnik reports.

Thanking the host country multiple times in Russian, Infantino noted that the tournament changed public perceptions of the country throughout the world. Speaking at the podium in front of honored guests, FIFA’s chief tried to imbue the famous concert hall with a Luzhniki stadium atmosphere, by leading the audience in the cheer “Rossiya, Rossiya, Rossiya!”

Addressing the audience at the opening of the gala concert in honor of the tournament, Russian President Vladimir Putin noted that all anti-Russia myths, disseminated by critics, have collapsed following the 2018 FIFA World Cup success.

 
Stressing that Russia’s efforts were praised alike by athletes, by media representatives, and by fans, Putin noted that the entire country is “thankful for the millions of kind words that the World Cup guests said about Russia and our people.”

“We’re glad that they liked our hospitality and openness, nature, culture, traditions of our big country,” the president continued. “We are glad that our guests saw everything with their own eyes, that myths and prejudices have collapsed.”

Putin also promised to look into creating a “comfortable visa regime” for fans, who “have fallen in love with Russia,” and want to return with their families.

READ MORE: Football fans smashed stereotypes about Russia through social media – Putin

The month-long tournament concludes at Moscow's Luzhniki Stadium on Sunday, where Croatia will clash with France for the title of World Champion.

  • Published in Sports

Trump To Press Putin On Russia's Denial Of Meddling In US Elections

WASHINGTON: US President Donald Trump will press Russian leader Vladimir Putin on Moscow's denial of meddling in the 2016 presidential election when the two leaders meet next month, national security adviser John Bolton said on Sunday.

Bolton said he discussed concerns about Russian meddling in the U.S. elections with Putin during his visit to Moscow on Wednesday, citing activities targeting congressional elections coming up in November as well as the 2016 presidential contest.

"The election meddling issue was definitely something we talked about," Bolton told the CBS "Face the Nation" program. Bolton said he brought up both the 2016 election and Russian activities in upcoming congressional elections.

Speaking about the meddling, Bolton told the "Fox News Sunday" program: "I think it's something that we're concerned about. That's why the president is going to speak with him about it again."

He said Putin told him that "there was no meddling in 2016 by the Russian state."

Bolton said that was different from the Russians saying there was no meddling at all.

"I think the president will have to pursue that further and I think that's one reason why he and President Putin need to have this conversation," he said, adding that "Vladimir Putin is the one who makes the decisions and I think our leader needs to speak with him."

Trump's praise of Putin as a strong leader and his stated desire to forge better relations with Russia are of concern to critics. They fear he may cede too much during their first official summit on July 16 in Helsinki, Finland.

The Republican president said he would raise the issue of election meddling with Putin as well as Russia's role in Syria and Ukraine.

After Trump and Putin met briefly in Vietnam in November 2017, Trump was criticized in the United States for saying he believed Putin when he denied Russian meddling.

U.S. intelligence agencies have alleged that Russian hackers had tried to help Trump win the White House, something Russia has flatly denied. Special Counsel Robert Mueller is investigating whether Trump's campaign worked with Moscow. Trump denies any collusion and has called the probe a "witch hunt."

Putin last month said patriotic Russian hackers may have staged cyber attacks against countries that had strained relations with Moscow and denied state intervention - a departure from the Kremlin's previous denials of any Russian interference.

"Russia continues to say they had nothing to do with Meddling in our Election!" Trump tweeted last week.

'GLAD PRESIDENT WILL CONFRONT PUTIN'

"I'm concerned when the president tweets, you know, Russia denies they meddled in our election," Republican U.S. Senator Lindsay Graham told NBC's "Meet the Press" program on Sunday. "When they say they didn't meddle, they're lying.

"So I'm glad the president is going to confront Putin. Show him the evidence you've got, Mr. President, because it's overwhelming."

Bolton also said he discussed Russia's annexation of Crimea with Putin and his aides during a 90-minute meeting.

"President Putin was pretty clear with me about it, and my response was we're going to have to agree to disagree on Ukraine," he said. "That's not the position of the United States."

Russia's 2014 annexation of Crimea from Ukraine and the sanctions imposed on Russia by the United States in response, and its military intervention in the war in Syria to support President Bashar al-Assad are major causes of strain in the two countries' relations.

Asked on Friday if the United States would recognize Crimea as part of Russia, Trump said: "We're going to have to see."

  • Published in World

Russia 4-3 Spain (pens) - Heroic hosts snatch improbable shootout victory to stun Spain in Moscow

Russia pulled off a spectacular and improbable victory to stun Spain after extra time and penalties at Luzhniki Stadium to keep their home World Cup hopes alive and send one of the pre-tournament favorites packing.

In the end, it was a dramatic 4-3 penalty shootout that decided the game, scoring the winner after a Sergei Ignashevich goal and Artem Dzyuba penalty in normal time meant the two sides could not be separated after 120 minutes of football.

With the result, Russia booked a quarterfinal date in Sochi on July 7 against either Croatia or Denmark in the day’s other last 16 tie.

Much of the talk before the game was about the importance of Russia’s ‘12th man’ in their raucous Luzhniki Stadium supporters. The sound of the national anthem bellowing from the 78,000 supporters in the stands ensured that man was the first to make itself counted.

When the action got underway, Spain showed some of the football they are famous for, although their ‘tiki taka’ passing tactics were receive with boos from the crowd. Spain captain and talisman Sergio Ramos is perhaps the most vilified and sometimes reviled man in football, but every play and attack was built from the Spanish captain in defense.

One of those attacks resulted in Yuri Zhirkov bringing down Nacho on the right flank. The resulting free kick found a dueling Ramos and veteran Russian counterpart Sergei Ignashevich. As the two tussled and tumbled to the floor, the ball came off the heel of Ignashevich and curled into the net past a rooted Akinfeev.

After the goal Russia did have their moments, from a set piece and balls into the area for Dzyuba to nod down, whose 6ft 4in frame is always going to cause panic for opposition defenders.

Golovin went close with 10 minutes of the first half remaining, beginning the attack for Dzyuba to head down. The ball found its way to Zobnin, who brought it forward and laid it off for Golovin to curl a shot on his weaker right foot just past the far post of David De Gea’s goal.

Russia did get their breakthrough when one of their attacks forward resulted in a corner. A Dzyuba header hit the arm of Pique, Dutch referee Bjorn Kuipers belatedly pointed to the spot without confronting VAR and booked the Spain defender.

Dzyuba the stepped up to fire the ball into the right hand side and send De Gea the wrong way to net his third in four World Cup games. The 12th man reacted with seismic cheers; the nation was level again and it was now all to play for in the Russian capital.

Golovin battling hard in midfield, Russia still with their tactics of long ball up to Dzyuba.

Diego Costa laid off to Isco, who went desperately close in an effort that was sure to have the collective heart in the mouths of every Russian fan inside the stadium.

Russia’s tactics changed when Fedor Smolov, the forgotten golden boy of Russian football, came on to replace Dzyuba, who stopped and said a few words to Cherchesov, neither of the two men looked too pleased and have a difficult history together.

Russia continued to press, and had a half-hearted penalty appeal when Golovin went down under a challenge of Ramos. Kuipers gave nothing as replays showed Ramos simply got himself in-between the onrushing midfielder and the ball.

For the Spaniards, the introduction of iconic midfielder Andres Iniesta meant that Spain reverted to their more famously fluid football, formulating attacks with a string of passes, but none could find their way through up until the 80th minute. 

In the final 10 minutes, Iniesta uncharacteristically miskicked from a corner but Russia managed to get it away, Koke’s dangerous ball into the area moments later was headed away by Mario Fernandes.

With a little over five minutes of normal time left, Iniesta made his first meaningful contribution to the game when he brought a save low down to Akinfeev’s right from 20 yards, the ball cannoned out to Aspas, but his effort was turned away with cat-like reflexes by the veteran stopper.

A hat-trick of corners in the final couple of minutes all resulted in nothing, the final of those seeing Ramos head over. Fernandes headed the ball clear from yet another Spain ball into the area with the last real attack of the 90 minutes and with that extra time was needed to separate the two sides.

The first half of extra time saw the action go much the way of the last 20 minutes of normal time, with Russia hemmed in under wave after wave of Spanish attack. Marco Asensio forced a save from Akinfeev from 20 yards, Ignashevich also showed enough defensive nous to keep a livewire Aspas at bay.

Aleksandr Golovin gave away a free-kick, replays showed he won the ball cleanly, but the free-kick only brought a tame goalward header from Gerard Pique that was comfortably caught by Akinfeev, the last action of the first half of extra time.

Tired legs traipsed off the pitch but Spain looked spritely as they began the second half, but they could still find no way past the Russia defense. Hearts reached mouths again when substitute Rodrigo wrong-footed substitute Vladimir Granat and powered into the area with a strong run, his cross-shot was equalled by Akinfeev and Dani Carvajal’s follow-up was blocked, the Russian defense proving water-tight once again.

Ignashevich gave away a silly foul halfway up his own half, the resulting inswinging free kick found its way past every player in the area but when Pique went down under a challenge from Ignashevich, the entire Spanish bench flew up and protested. Although it was enough to bring a VAR consultation no penalty was eventually given as there was no clear foul.

Russia won a corner, Golovin to take it but when the ball broke clear from a wayward header, Smolov could do nothing. The two sides battles out the remaining minutes of the match at Luzhniki as the rain fell on Russia’s sporting epicenter. A Rodrigo shot saved by Akinfeev restored some hope and as the last attack of the 120 minutes. Penalties ensued.

Ramos won the toss and elected to shoot towards the goal behind which Spanish fans had gathered, much to their delight at that end. Iniesta was first to take and score, sending Akinfeev the wrong way. An unsure Smolov alleviated fears by smashing cooly past De Gea. Pique stepped up and rifled in off the post, Ignashevich made a stuttering run-up and showed no nerves as he slotted in to make it 2-2.

Then the real drama came as Koke had his shot blocked by Akinfeev, straight at the keeper diving to his right. Golovin shot home to have Russia take the lead 3-2 on penalties, almost firing through De Gea in the goal.

Ramos, so often the villain, was the hero from the spot, calmly slotting away to level up again. Cheryshev netted his spot kick to make it four from four straight down the center of the goal. Aspas then missed his spot kick to send a rapturous Russia into the next round and keep the home dream alive.

  • Published in Sports

We may have seen Ronaldo & Messi at the World Cup for the last time – Schmeichel

Russia 2018 may be the World Cup swansong for Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi, according to Peter Schmeichel, after both players exited on the same day at the last 16 stage.

Ronaldo and Messi are the two players who have defined their generation, breaking record after record and vying for the title of the world’s best player year after year.

However, the pair have again failed to add an elusive World Cup to their trophy-laden cabinets, after Messi’s Argentina were defeated 4-3 by France in the last 16 in Russia on Saturday, followed shortly after by Ronaldo’s Portugal, who suffered a 2-1 defeat at the hands of Uruguay.

Goalkeeping great Peter Schmeichel, who is an RT World Cup guest host, says both players looked jaded judging by their performances in the last 16 – and raised doubts over whether fans would ever see the pair on football’s biggest stage again.

“We’re now speculating, was this the last time we saw Ronaldo and Messi at the World Cup?” Schmeichel asked.

“By the look of their performances today, they looked tired. Ronaldo’s looked OK [at the World Cup], but I don’t think Messi has.”

Ronaldo is 33, and while he says he feels like a 23-year-old, even his obsessive desire to succeed and meticulous approach to staying in shape will not dispel doubts as to whether he appears at Qatar in four years’ time. Messi is two years younger than his great rival, having turned 31 during this World Cup, but doubts will be even more fervent over his international future after such a bitterly disappointing campaign in which he scored a solitary goal and cut such a peripheral figure in Argentina’s defeat to France.

Ronaldo’s World Cup exit is down in large part to the talents of Uruguayan strike duo Luis Suarez and Edison Cavani – the latter of whom scored a stunning double in Sochi.

READ MORE: France 4-3 Argentina: Mbappe fires Les Blues into World Cup quarter-finals as Messi crashes out

Schmeichel was full of praise for an attacking duo he had warned about before the game.

“Cavani was brilliant, he got injured which is a bit of a worry, but he didn’t look to be in too much discomfort, but it’s a worry.”

“He’s very important to Uruguay… There’s no doubt about the quality of Suarez, but for me Cavani is the big star for the team.”

The attacking pair linked up perfectly for Uruguay’s open, which saw Cavani send a sweeping cross-field ball to Suarez, before sprinting half the length of the pitch to turn the return ball home.   

 
“This is a perfect ball in, to a striker who’s very good in the heading department, and he doesn’t miss from there,” said Schmeichel.

Portugal showed more urgency after going behind, equalizing through Pepe in the second half, although Schmeichel said the game saw the best and worst of the former Real Madrid defender.

“Pepe slipped in with a really good header,” Schmeichel said of the defender’s 55th-minute goal, before finding fault with the 35-year-old for the goal which saw Uruguay re-take the lead.

“But when you have someone like Pepe in the team, he pops up and scores goals, but he also makes stupid decisions in the game.

“For the second goal he made stupid decision to try and win a header, when he should have stayed back, but he left so much space for Cavani.”

Cavani used that space well, curling home from the edge of the box for what proved the winner.

Former Denmark and Manchester United ‘keeper Schmeichel said experienced Portuguese stopper Rui Patricio could have done better.  

“It is a great finish, but when you are facing a situation like that as a goalkeeper, you need to be a little bit further out of the goal. Rui Patricio was on the line, and also he got a bit carried away, he was a bit too far to the right.

“It’s nearly in the center of the goal… it’s a quality finish from a great striker… but you always have to question these players, he could have done a bit better.”

READ MORE: Ronaldo flashes legs, internet goes into meme frenzy

Uruguay closed out the game for the win, with the closing stages to what could be Ronaldo’s World Cup swansong not showing the best from a man who has scored four goals at Russia 2018 – including  a stunning hat-trick in Sochi in the opening game against Spain.

“After that there was nothing in Portugal… Ronaldo huffed and puffed, but there was nothing really in that,” Schmeichel said of the closing stages against Uruguay.

With that, Ronaldo’s World Cup in Russia was over as he departed football’s greatest stage along with his greatest rival.

  • Published in Sports

Russia World Cup: the West Have Failed

Moscow (PL) The tacit plan wished by the West to prevent the celebration of the Soccer World Cup in Russia was a failure as soon as the first chords of the inaugural ceremony in Luzhniki Stadium -where 32 teams of the world had an appointment- started to sound.

To make matters worse, the national team showed in the inaugural game a soccer match never seen in this country for high-level competitions, at least after the formation of the Russian Federation: five goals against Saudi Arabia.

Although the Saudis were not the best team in the tournament, there were much optimism during the organization of the World Cup, but predictions about the local team's potential were really pessimist.

One of the main slogans of the press and even some high-ranking politicians said: we already won by hosting the World Cup, but we can also win... experience.

The truth is that the first eight goals scored by the host squad, led by Stanislav Cherkesov, to ensure its exit from the qualifying round, became a historic achievement, dreamed by few in this nation.

No matter how far the Russian team can go, this will undoubtedly strength the success of this country against the struggle started by the West through at least three intentional maneuvers to spoil the competitive event.

The first was the case of the alleged poisoning of Serguei Skripal and his daughter Julia.

During more than three months of unfounded accusations, diplomatic actions and sanctions against Russia, London was unable to prove the presumed chemical attack against the former Russian military intelligence agent.

In fact, the last thing London wants to talk about now is precisely the Skripal case. Some media came to speculate that as soon as the World Cup ends, the whereabouts of the former Russian agent will be completely uncertain.

At the time and in the heat of the anti-Russian euphoria in the United Kingdom's parliament, the Foreign Minister of that country, Boris Jhonson, came to threaten the suspension of England's attendance at the World Cup.

Finally, he chose to allow English squad to participate, but the Foreign Office -like its colleagues in France, Poland, Denmark and other European nations- spent its time inventing another Russia, to which no one should travel.

Precisely, the fans from the mentioned countries were responsible for denying or rather denouncing the calumnies they heard about Russia when they were about to travel.

A second maneuver was to intensify the attacks of the western coalition led by the United States in Syria, including a greater support to the terrorist groups to create a new atmosphere of war tension in the south of the Levantine country.

The third action was an attempt at provocation to create a large-scale conflict in Donbass coal region. In fact, Kiev's authorities publicly declared that they intended to 'spoil' the sports tournament.

But the self-defense formations of Donetsk and Lugansk Republics launched several counter-offensives in late May and June that cooled off Kiev's ambitious military plans for a major offensive.

It is worth noting that Donbass is adjacent to the Russian region of Rostov-on-Don, whose capital is one of the 11 cities hosting the World Cup since June 14.

DIFFERENT OPINION

If the Western campaign's failure were measured in terms of the convening power achieved by Russia, we should refer to the fact that only Mexico brought to this country about 50,000 fans who move like a real green tide through Russian cities.

Many of the almost three million fans, not counting the tourists who simply come to enjoy the World Cup's atmosphere, were from Latin America, whose region brought teams from eight countries to compete for the round of 16.

Therefore, in the streets of Moscow, in St. Petersburg, in the southern spa of Sochi, in the beautiful Kazan, in the Republic of Tatarstan and in other regions, Spanish was heard more than any other language.

The fans from Mexico, Argentina, Uruguay, Brazil, Colombia and Panama became so popular among the Russians that many locals came to propose offers to acquire Mexican hats or other Latin American clothes.

We were told that the police could confiscate the mobiles, that we were coming to a concentration camp, to a country with dirty streets, with rough and rude people, but it has been the opposite. That would be several foreigners' opinion.

In fact, the West is scared by the evidence that Russia is establishing a record of organization, cleanliness, hospitality, attention of volunteers, preparation of cities to meet foreigners and safety conditions.

The uncovered defamatory campaign lead some politicians like Jhonson to change their rhetoric. What option do they have? Thousands of Englishmen who dared to travel to Russia can deny all those lies.

The head of British diplomacy published an article in The Sun, where he said that his country reinforced the work of its consulates in Moscow, St. Petersburg and Yekaterinburg, as well as organized mobile groups of diplomats for other cities.

In addition to the mentioned cities, the World Cup is also held in Kaliningrad, Samara, Saransk, Volgograd, Rostov-on-Don and Nizhny Novgorod.

Apart from the economic and political dividends that the celebration of the event will give Russia, the World Cup's success will reduce the Western countries' arguments to continue with their anti-Russian policy and sanctions against this nation.

Could a country with a population so hospitable and ready to attend and share with dozens of countries that came here to enjoy the world's best soccer threaten or wish an attack on other nations?

  • Published in World
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