Fifa boss Gianni Infantino said Thursday Russia was “absolutely ready” to host the World Cup and thanked President Vladimir Putin for his commitment to the football showpiece.
Infantino met Putin in the Black Sea resort of Sochi as Russia races against the clock to put the finishing touches on preparations for the June 14-July 15 final.
The first World Cup staged in eastern Europe will be the most expensive ever and comes in the heat of flaring tensions between Russia and the West.
It has also been shadowed by stadium construction delays and fears ranging from hooliganism to racist chants at matches.
But Infantino lavished praise on Russia’s preparations and said the tournament was shaping up to be the best one yet.
“You are working to make this World Cup the best World Cup ever,” Infantino told Putin during a nationally televised meeting.
“The feedback from all our experts at Fifa are extremely positive.
“And this shows that Russia is absolutely ready to host the world to celebrate a summer of festivities here in this beautiful country,” he said.
Putin and Infantino began the day by posing for the cameras and getting Fan ID cards issued by the Russian authorities to supporters who pass a required security background check.
The two then toured Sochi’s Fisht Stadium — scene of the 2014 Winter Olympics — and listened to leaders of regions where the games will be played.
The tournament will span 12 stadiums and 11 host cities across the European part of Russia.