World Cup 2018 diary: Tupac, St Petersburg cruises and let's play 'where's Putin?'

France's Presnel Kimpembe was in fine voice after its semifinal win, while Russian fans have been wondering where their president is.

Putin attended the opening win over Saudi Arabia but has not been seen at any games since.   -  Getty Images

France's semi-final win over Belgium brought huge celebrations in Russia and back in Paris, and even forced Presnel Kimpembe to show the world his singing voice.

Ahead of the second last-four clash between Croatia and England, meanwhile, there seems to be an intriguing number of Brazil and Colombia fans keen to outlast their teams at the World Cup.

The home fans have more earthly concerns to ponder, namely where president Vladimir Putin has been while the games are going on and whether the spike in Tinder users will carry on after Sunday's final.


The arrival of thousands of foreign football fans in Russia has undoubtedly been a boon to a lot of local businesses.

It seems it's also impacted multi-national franchises, most notably Tinder.

According to The Moscow Times, network provider Megafon has registered a near-four-fold increase in traffic to the dating app between early June and July 1. Whether this is quite what FIFA had in mind when it wanted to bring fans together for the World Cup is unclear.


The Champs-Elysees was quite a sight on Tuesday, as France fans poured into Paris' most famous street to celebrate the win over Belgium.

The joy among the players was no less intense after the final whistle, as Antoine Griezmann and others fell to their knees while coach Didier Deschamps led the jubilations in the dug-out.

The scenes continued on the team bus heading away from Krestovsky Stadium, as Kimpembe, who did not get off the bench, belted out some Tupac from his seat.

He might not speak a lot of English, but he can sing it well enough.



The Hermitage Museum visit was crammed in the morning after a night cruise down St Petersburg's famous waterways, before the France versus Belgium semifinal.

If you want to interpret this last-gasp dash for culture as a belated acknowledgement that we've spent far too much of our downtime stuffing our faces in Georgian restaurants and guzzling craft beer, then that's entirely your call to make.

Anyway, whatever the reason for this rush towards refinement, St Petersburg illuminated in all its 18th-century splendour is an awesome – if chilly – sight to behold from the River Neva under what passes for darkness here at this time of year.


Brazil, as pre-tournament favourites, caused something of a shock when they went home at the quarter-final stage, even though they were beaten by an extremely strong Belgium side.

Its travelling fans have won plenty of admirers throughout the tournament, though, and it seems they are in no hurry to bring their own journey to an end.

Ahead of Wednesday's second semifinal between Croatia and England, there were more Selecao shirts in Moscow than any other, both at Red Square and shortly before the outer stadium area opened three hours before kick-off.

It's the kind of commitment Neymar and the rest of Tite's side could learn from.


Russia's remarkable run to the quarterfinals of its home World Cup captured the imagination of pretty much the whole country, except, perhaps, Vladimir Putin.

The President attended the opening win over Saudi Arabia but has not been seen at any games since, and is only expected to return to Luzhniki Stadium for the final on Sunday.

Several Russian media outlets, as well as fans, have begun pondering why the man in charge of the nation has missed most of one of their biggest sporting events.

The most common theories are that he is too busy (he does run a country, after all), or that he simply does not care much for football.

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