World Cup 2018 diary: Brazilian boasts, Stalin’s bunker and Swan Lake ballet

Our day nine entry of the World Cup 2018 diary is full of history, culture...and a little bit of football.

Representative Image: Supporters of Mexico and South Korea joined an audience of local families in Rostov to witness a triumphant rendition of swan lake ballet.   -  Getty Images

Brazil was the headline act on day nine of Russia 2018 — on the pitch, at least.

The Selecao left it very, very late to defeat Costa Rica 2-0 — goals from Philippe Coutinho and Neymar arriving in second-half stoppage time to move them on to four points in Group E.

In Group D Nigeria was victorious by the same scoreline over Iceland, which saw Gylfi Sigurdsson spurn a late chance to get it back into the game as he sent a penalty over the bar.

Seemingly not satisfied with the parade of late drama throughout the tournament, Switzerland left it to Xherdan Shaqiri to sink Serbia in stoppage time and remain level on points with Brazil.

But off the field, our Omnisport reporters dotted around Russia took in no shortage of history and culture. It’s the World Cup daily diary!

SWEDES GEARING UP FOR MIDSUMMER FESTIVITIES

We may be 24 hours out from Sweden’s Group F blockbuster against world champion Germany but their presence can already be felt in Sochi. And the Swedes are planning some big celebrations, even before Saturday's match at Fisht Stadium.

Sitting beachside to watch Australia and Denmark do battle on Thursday, a contingent of Sweden fans revealed they're in for a mammoth session of drinking to celebrate Midsummer — a tradition entrenched in the country's history.

Let's hope the Russians in Adler have enough beer to accommodate the Swedes, who drank so much alcohol that the city of Nizhny Novgorod ran out following the win over South Korea.

THE SHOW MUST GO ON

Swan Lake, the first of Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky's three iconic ballets, was premiered in Moscow in 1877, five years after the first international association football match between England and Scotland.

The paraphernalia surrounding the beautiful game and proceedings on the field have evolved to an extent that would render it almost unrecognisable to Alfred Baker, the property auctioneer who scored an 89th-minute equaliser to snatch a draw for host England at the Oval.

Tchaikovsky, though, would instantly know and appreciate the exquisite rendition of his work staged on Thursday by the Rostov State Ballet and Opera Company, which has foregone its usual summer break to produce a season of its classic repertoire running parallel with the city's World Cup hosting duties.

 

Supporters of Mexico and South Korea, who are set to meet here on Saturday, joined an audience of local families — patrons of the arts one and all — to witness a triumphant rendition of the beloved masterpiece.

Dancers, orchestra and conductor alike soaked in the audience's applause upon the show's conclusion, but when the curtain falls at Rostov Arena this weekend, will Hirving Lozano, Son Heung-min or a different, unheralded 'ballerino' receive the acclaim?

MESSI OR RONALDO? YOU'RE ASKING THESE GUYS THE WRONG QUESTION

Neymar might have polarised opinion so far at Russia 2018, with his triple salvo of a rainbow flick, a goal and hysterical crying at the conclusion of Brazil's dramatic 2-0 win over Costa Rica one of the more peculiar chains of events you're ever likely to see on a football field.

There is no doubt he remains a hero to the Selecao faithful, however, who were chanting his name with gusto before kick-off as Krestovsky Stadium and the surrounding area became awash with dazzling yellow.

There was plenty of fun being had at the expense of Argentina and Lionel Messi as well, with these Brazil fans making their opinion on all matters Ballon d'Or abundantly clear, even if your understanding of Portuguese is as spotty as our man in St Petersburg.

 

STALIN'S BUNKER NO LONGER TOP SECRET

With no World Cup action in Samara on Friday following Australia's 1-1 draw with Denmark 24 hours earlier, an opportunity to visit Joseph Stalin's underground bunker was not to be passed up.

Built in 1941 as a hideaway for the Soviet Union's leader should the German invasion reach Moscow during World War Two, the bunker sits 37 metres below street level.

Its construction was kept as a highly classified secret, to the extent that its existence was only discovered when the Soviet Union broke up in 1991.

Usually, one can only visit having asked for permission and booked in advance, but the arrival of the World Cup means its doors have been opened, and several Australia fans — as well as some from Uruguay — were among those queueing out the door to get a glimpse of the eerie lair.

 

TIMMY'S STILL GOT IT

At the ripe old age of 38, Tim Cahill — or Timmy to his colleagues — is one of the 2018 World Cup's elder statesmen and is at his fourth such tournament with Australia.

Although he hasn't featured yet for the Socceroos in Russia, Cahill is hoping to become only the fourth player to score in four World Cups.

And, judging by his form on the training pitch in Kazan today, if Bert van Marwijk gives him an opportunity, the attacking midfielder might be Australia's best hope of actually scoring from open play.

His best finish at training saw him nonchalantly clip a left-footed strike into the top corner from just outside the box. "Top bins," as the kids might say.

 

In fact, one of those 'kids' was out there with him, as Cahill and Daniel Arzani — the youngest player at the tournament and 19 years his team-mate's junior — gave a hint of their burgeoning relationship when blasting the ball at each other.

The youngster gave as good as he got.

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