Russians Considered Co-Favorites With Belgium In Group H This Summer In Brazil

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — Russia may one day pay a steep price for its actions in Ukraine.

Its national soccer team may feel the backlash sooner.

According to a BBC report, the Ukrainian ambassador to the European Union has floated the idea of sanctioning Russia by kicking the country out of this summer’s World Cup in Brazil.

It’s not a terrible idea considering Russia’s historic infatuation with sports and its need to show its superiority. Such action would also create intense tense theater leading up to the 2018 tournament, which will be played in Russia.

Coached by former England coach Fabio Capello and making its first World Cup appearance since it went out in group play in 2002, Russia is one of the co-favorites in Group H, along with Belgium. The Russians finished atop their qualifying group for the tournament in Brazil, going 7-1-2 against Portugal, Israel, Luxembourg, Northern Ireland and Azerbaijan.

As for the Ukraine crisis that has the entire world taking notice, Vladimir Putin talked tough but cooled tensions on Tuesday in his first comments since Ukraine’s president fled, saying Russia has no intention “to fight the Ukrainian people” but reserved the right to use force.

As the Russian president held court in his personal residence, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry met with Kiev’s fledgling government and Moscow agreed to sit down with NATO.

Although nerves remained on edge in Crimea, with Russian troops firing warning shots to ward off Ukrainian soldiers, global markets catapulted higher on tentative signals that the Kremlin was not seeking to escalate the conflict. Kerry brought moral support and a $1 billion aid package to a Ukraine fighting to fend off bankruptcy.

Moscow has insisted that the Russian military deployment in Crimea has remained within the limits set by a bilateral agreement on a Russian military base there. At the United Nations in New York, Russia’s ambassador to the U.N., Vitaly Churkin, said Russia was entitled to deploy up to 25,000 troops in Crimea under that agreement.

Ukraine’s national soccer team will play the United States in a friendly in Cyprus on Wednesday, a match moved from Kharkiv to Larnaca for security reasons.

Despite threats to cancel the match, Ukraine soccer association president Anatoliy Konkov said Tuesday the game would go ahead.

“(We) reached a consensus to play the USA after all,” Konkov said in a statement that also praised the American team. “(They) stood behind us to protect the national interests and territorial integrity of Ukraine.”

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