It was recently announced that this year's FIFA World Cup will be taking place in Russia. The England squad will be based in the village of Repino for the tournament, situated in the district of the federal city of St. Petersburg, and will be travelling to various locations across the country for the group stage games.
Here at ACE-FX, we took this as the perfect opportunity to tell our readers a little bit more about the fascinating, and relatively unknown Russia. We will be shadowing the team as they move from place to place, providing some details of the ‘who what where’ of their different locations.
Perhaps the first thing to note is just how huge Russia is. In geographic terms, it is the largest country in the world, occupying more than one-ninth of the world's total land mass. Russia is also home to the longest continuous coastline (37,650 km/23,400 mi); the world’s largest lake; and the world’s deepest freshwater lake - with a depth of 1647m.
This hugeness means that no one place is the same. Throughout the country there are all kinds of contrasts and extremes, not least in terms of the weather. Many people hold preconceptions about Russia. But I believe Russia is the kind of country you have to get to know - for once you peel away the outer layers, there’s no telling what you might find in its depths.
England will certainly have their fair share of Russian exploration during the three week tournament, with matches spread across the expanse of the country.
The team are in Group G, and their first match will be played at the arena in Volgograd, against Tunisia, on the 18th June.
The second fixture will be played at the stadium in Nizhny Novgorod, this time against Panama, on the 24th June.
The third and final match of the group stage will be held in Kaliningrad, against Belgium, on the 28th June.
During the group stage, England will travel a total of 6,608 miles across Russia to get to the various games. That equates to the same as travelling from Moscow to Rio. Or from London to Edinburgh and back - everyday for 20 days. To put it in other terms, the Earth's circumference is 24,000 miles; the team will be journeying 30% of this distance.
Understandably, there has been some contention around the choice of Russia as the host country for the World Cup. Other than the great stretches the team will have to travel, many are not attending the games due to the vast amounts of travelling required to attend each round.
During other World Cups or tournaments, such as the Euro's held in France in 2016, the team travelled a maximum of 529 miles - 100 miles shorter than the quickest journey they will undertake in Russia this year.
Time will show how they fare with these new challenges this tournament!
The teams base - Repino - is so called after the famous Russian painter Ilya Repin (one of the main and only attractions of the area is the house-turned-museum that Repin built for his family).
While a relatively small and sleepy seaside town, with a population of only 2,000, the area is picturesque; home to the sandy beaches of the Gulf of Finland and numerous pine tree parks. It’s distance from the city makes it one of the more attractive and peaceful places to stay in the Leningrad area, part of the reason it was chosen as the squads base for the tournament.
The team will be practicing at the newly built stadium just down the road from Repino in the quiet town of Zelenogorsk. While there is not a huge amount to do in either of these small towns, it will give the team plenty of time to get in lots of practice and recuperate after games at their Repino hotel, the ForRestMix Sports Club. Whatever else, the location will certainly provide privacy.
Once the group stages are completed, the teams who advance to the knockout stages can decide whether to remain at their base or choose a new host city location in Russia.
Who knows what they will decide? They may enjoy the peace and quiet.
Stay tuned for more ACE-FX World Cup updates - we will be taking you everywhere England goes this season!