Campbell: Russia is ready
Sol Campbell in Volgograd for opening of Russia 2018 Football Park
England legend chatted with fans before looking around city and stadium
Three Lions play Tunisia on 18 June in Volgograd
On 18 June, thousands of England fans will descend on Volgograd for their opening game at the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia™ against Tunisia.
A Three Lions legend, Sol Campbell was in the city on the Volga River this weekend to help with the launch of the Russia 2018 Football Park, which gave locals and visitors in Volgograd a taste of the upcoming festival of football.
The ex-defender, who played at three World Cups - France 1998, Korea/Japan 2002 and Germany 2006 - spoke to the public about his experiences at the tournament and said he was impressed with what he saw in Volgograd.
“It was great to see so many open people who cannot wait for this huge celebration and passionately love football,” said Campbell. “I think Russia is ready to welcome the whole world. This is a beautiful country, where people work hard and value their history. Volgograd is a fascinating historical place, where many people gave their lives during the Second World War. People should remember this and appreciate it.”
Campbell tried his hand at the various activities in the Football Park, chatted with supporters, had a look around the city and even visited the Volgograd Arena, where England will line up to face Tunisia.
“This is an excellent stadium and any team in the world would be happy to play here,” he continued. “I think England will be ready for the match and won’t let the supporters down. Winning the first game is always very important for confidence.”
After signing autographs and taking photos with guests at the park, Campbell also had time to talk with fans on the official FIFA World Cup page of the Russian social media platform VKontakte. Campbell answered many questions about England's and Russia’s chances and about the World Cup itself. Here are some of his best answers:
On who will make it to the 2018 World Cup Final: "Everyone is picking Germany, but I don’t think they’re going to win it for a second time in a row. They’ve got players in their team at the moment who don’t have that much experience at international level. I was fortunate to observe a few of Brazil’s training sessions and I watched their recent win against Germany in a friendly. Losing to them at the last World Cup was a shock for Brazil, but they’ve recovered from it now. They have an excellent team, strong in every area.
“I’ll risk saying that Belgium will make it to the Final. They have some fantastic players who are running out of time at international level, so they simply cannot miss their last chance. At recent tournaments, the Belgians have always been lacking some little details and a slice of luck. This time they’re the dark horse.”
On England’s chances: “My heart says that England can reach the Final, but my head says differently. Our attack is fine, and I hope Harry Kane is in good form, but things in defence could be better. England need some luck.”
On his World Cup memories: “I still remember the match against Argentina at France 1998 and, of course, my goal that didn’t count. We had a great team with young players [Michael] Owen and [David] Beckham, and I think we played really well and should have won that match. Then again, any Argentinian will probably tell you the same about their team.”
On the best Russian footballers: “I’d name [Andrei] Arshavin as the best Russian footballer. He was great at Arsenal and I know he’s still playing in Kazakhstan. From the current Russia team, I know [Aleksandr] Golovin. I watched his goal against Arsenal in the UEFA Europa League. It’s good when you have a player who can take set pieces because at the big tournaments, you score nearly half your goals from them.”
On the best central defender in the world right now: “If I have to pick someone, I’d probably go for Sergio Ramos.”