Socceroos set up base camp in Kazan as Cup preparations intensify
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Socceroos set up base camp in Kazan as Cup preparations intensify

The time for talking, training, preparation and assessment is almost done with the Socceroos now having touched down in Kazan for the opening game in the World Cup against France on Saturday.

The team landed late on Sunday night, Australian time, and were scheduled to do a public training session at their home from home in Kazan at Trudovyne Rezeny,  the base of leading Russian ice hockey team AK Bars, in the early hours of Tuesday morning (AEST).

The Socceroos touch down: Coach Bert Van Marwijk and players Mile Jedinak and Mat Ryan disembark at Kazan airport.

The Socceroos touch down: Coach Bert Van Marwijk and players Mile Jedinak and Mat Ryan disembark at Kazan airport.Credit:AFP

Hundreds of Australian supporters were set to attend. Coach Bert van Marwijk has given his players an easy time of things since their victory over Hungary in Budapest on Saturday afternoon, when he said their performance had been compromised by fatigue from a heavy workload in their Turkish training camp.

The players travelled to the Tatarstan capital but did not train on arrival on Sunday afternoon, instead relaxing and recovering after the 2-1 win – a result which was more impressive than the scoreline.

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There are no major injuries to be concerned about ahead of the match against Les Bleus: Andrew Nabbout sustained a knock, and Tom Juric, who replaced the former at half time, is said to be fine having nursed some injury concerns leading into the tournament.

Kazan, the capital of the Russian province of Tatarstan, is looking forward to the six matches it will host, the first of which is Australia's clash against France on Saturday afternoon.

Iran and Spain, Poland and Colombia and South Korea and Germany will also play group stage matches in the 45,000 capacity stadium, which opened in 2013 and hosted four group games, including a semi-final, in the 2017 Confederations Cup.

FIFA banners and bunting are on display around various points of the city and enthusiastic locals are manning information points scattered around the main thoroughfare.

Replica shirt clad fans of France and Australia are starting to arrive as the city looks to an influx of tourism-led funding to help defray the huge costs of staging a World Cup.

Australian officials are expecting more than 5000 travelling supporters in Russia, many of whom will be in Kazan for the opener.

Some reports suggest that the Socceroos supporters might even outnumber those of England, given the negative press about Russia in England and the continuous warnings about Russian hooligans and their reported preparedness to take on England supporters in a reprise of the so called ''Battle of Marseille''.

That confrontation left such an ugly impression in the opening round of the 2016 European Championships in France, when Russia played England in the port city and the former's fans, who resembled a para-military group, clashed with England's notorious travelling support.

Senior FFA officials are expected to arrive in Kazan later in the week ahead of the match.

FFA chairman Steven Lowy, chief executive David Gallop and the organisation's head of international affairs and government strategy, Mark Falvo are in Russia attending the FIFA Congress is due to take place.

Among the crucial issues up for discussion is the location for the 2026 World Cup, with the United States-led joint bid (with Mexico and Canada) and Morocco the two candidates.

Australia will get one vote on the issue. The delegation has not made public whom it will support, but it is expected that Australia might throw its vote behind the US candidacy given the political, economic and diplomatic links between the two countries.

FIFA plans to increase the World Cup from 32 teams to 48 for the 2026 World Cup – a move which has met with far from universal support although it will mean that developing nations will have more chance of making it to the finals.

However, in a press conference in Moscow on Sunday FIFA boss Gianni Infantino said that despite some speculation there were no plans to increase participation to 48 for the next World Cup, controversially due to be staged in Qatar in 2022.

Michael Lynch, The Age's expert on soccer, has had extensive experience of high level journalism in the UK and Australia. Michael has covered the Socceroos through Asia, Europe and South America in their past three World Cup campaigns. He has also reported on Grands Prix and top class motor sport from Asia and Europe. He has won several national media awards for both sports and industry journalism.