ST PETERSBURG/MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russian fans erupted in celebration on Tuesday as the World Cup hosts cruised past Egypt 3-1 in their second game in Group A, virtually booking a place in the knockout stages of the tournament.
Russia is the lowest FIFA ranked side at the event, but two games in they are top of their group with six points and are poised to qualify for the next stage.
State television broadcast footage of fans chanting “Russia” ecstatically, waving flags at locations around the country and celebrating the victory in St Petersburg.
“The game was just crazy, (Egypt talisman Mohamed) Salah couldn’t do anything,” said Alexander, 36, who was with his wife in a packed fan zone in St Petersburg and said he had travelled to the game from Bryansk after winning tickets in a lottery.
“This is my first time at a football game, and I loved the atmosphere, but our players really showed how the game should be played,” said Andrei, who was wrapped in a Russia flag.
The win followed Russia’s 5-0 thrashing of Saudi Arabia in the first game of the tournament.
It is an unexpectedly positive situation for a Russian side that came into this tournament amidst scepticism and pessimism at home.
In Moscow, cars tooted their horns and crowds in the centre of the capital danced in the street.
“Everyone else is lagging behind us,” Alexei Zaikev, 36, said, sitting in a Moscow bar and talking over the sound of crowds singing Russian patriotic folk song “Katyusha”.
Some fans said they thought the World Cup party atmosphere would show visitors Russia is a welcoming country, despite ties with the West being at post-Cold War lows.
“In the West they’re trying to paint it as if everything’s bad here, but then we show them that it’s not, and foreigners come and they like it here, and that’s great,” Zaikev said.
“We’re the youth, and patriotism is only just starting to blossom here, and now our country is winning,” Zukhra Nudarava, 25, said.
“Even foreigners are cheering for Russia!” she added, before drinking a shot of tequila and introducing a Peruvian fan, on whose cheeks she had drawn two Russian flags.
Reporting by Denis Pinchuk and Polina Ivanova; Writing by Tom Balmforth; Editing by Christian Radnedge