MOSCOW (Reuters Life!) - Eight percent of Russians believe their national team will win the World Cup, despite the fact that it never qualified for the tournament, an independent poll has showed.
Russian pride was shattered when its team was denied a place at the world’s most-watched sporting event, currently underway in South Africa, when they were defeated by Slovenia in the qualifying stage.
The poll, conducted by Russia’s Levada Center between the 18th and the 22nd of June, surveyed 1,600 Russian adults across 130 cities.
Brazil -- currently pegged a favorite by several bookmakers -- came top of the poll, with 33 percent of Russians believing the football powerhouse will take home the trophy.
Two percent of those polled said prime Russian tourist spot Turkey, also absent from the Cup, would win.
Despite the Russian team’s absence, Moscow’s bars are filled with excited fans ardently watching the matches. The Kremlin is also eagerly awaiting December’s decision on whether or not its bid to host the World Cup in 2018 or 2022 has been successful.
The Russian team has previously enjoyed a mixed record in international football, securing a historic semi-final place at the European Championship in 2008. However it failed to qualify for the 2006 World Cup in Germany.
FIFA, which runs the World Cup, considers the Russian team the direct successor to the Soviet squad, whose pinnacle of sporting achievement was victory in the inaugural European Championships in Paris in 1960. It beat fellow Communists Yugoslavia.
Editing by Paul Casciato Reporting by Ben Judah