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World Cup stories: Jayaditya Gupta in Russia

The 2018 World Cup stories of ESPN's Jayaditya Gupta, updated as he takes in more of the sights and sounds of the host country Russia. Fans in India can watch highlights of the action here.

The blur that is Mbappe, Ronaldo's hang time and amazing fans

Kylian Mbappe's runs were a delight to watch.
Kylian Mbappe's runs were a delight to watch.

From the blur of a Kylian Mbappe run to Eden Hazard's remarkable tournament, here are Jayaditya Gupta's favourite memories from Russia 2018.

Blockbuster World Cup final sets high bar for 2022

France did not dominate the final, but they made it count in the crucial moments and emerged worthy winners.

Three scorchers, an own goal, a brain fade and VAR controversy. The 2018 final had everything, and more. Can it get any better than this?

The Biggest Match in Sport

Diego Maradona holds the World Cup trophy aloft after the 1986 World Cup final between Argentina and West Germany in Mexico City.
Diego Maradona holds the World Cup trophy aloft after the 1986 World Cup final between Argentina and West Germany in Mexico City.

It is the stage for the coronation of the greatest. It is where Pele became Pele, where Maradona became Maradona.

Croatia have come through the wars, literally

Croatian players celebrate after scoring against Nigeria in a World Cup game in Kaliningrad.
Croatian players celebrate after scoring against Nigeria in a World Cup game in Kaliningrad.

Croatia have played 90 minutes more than France in the past fortnight but their life experiences mean that shouldn't really make a difference in the final.

Belgium's golden generation miss best chance to win World Cup

Romelu Lukaku
Eden Hazard led his country from the front but his team-mates failed to match his level of application and rise up to their own potential.

The golden generation has blown its best chance to take that title to its logical conclusion.

The accountant who turned omnipresent midfielder

N'Golo Kante has been one of the breakout stars of the 2018 World Cup and if France win it all, he'll have played a major part.
Kante remains one of France and Chelsea's most important players.

The most common description of N'Golo Kante is that he's everywhere at one time. He is both water-collector and carrier. The ultimate firefighter.

What are you, Kazan?

From the outside, the Mardzhani mosque could pass off as a mansion in Bavaria but this is the Tatar style of architecture.
From the outside, the Mardzhani mosque could pass off as a mansion in Bavaria but this is the Tatar style of architecture.

It's nothing you've wished for, and yet everything you could have hoped for. It demands that you pay attention and open your mind to this town.

Hazard outshines Neymar in the battle of No. 10s

Hazard had no goals and no assists against Brazil but he led Belgium from the front.
Hazard had no goals and no assists against Brazil but he led Belgium from the front.

The stories of Neymar and Eden Hazard couldn't have been more different than they turned out to be in the Brazil vs Belgium quarter-final in Kazan.

Why I want Belgium to beat Brazil -- and then go all the way

Belgium has had a longish run in football's top tier, including being the No. 1 ranked team not so long ago.
Belgium has had a longish run in football's top tier, including being the No. 1 ranked team not so long ago.

Here's why Jayaditya Gupta has had a change of heart and is no longer supporting Brazil at the World Cup.

Faberge Eggs, Kazan Cathedral and noisy Swedes

The Bay Tree Faberge Egg (also known as the Orange Tree egg) on display at St Petersburg's Faberge Museum.
The Bay Tree Faberge Egg (also known as the Orange Tree egg) on display at St Petersburg's Faberge Museum.

Jayaditya Gupta is a late entrant to St Petersburg and a fairly brief guest as he covers the lowest profile match of the Round of 16: Sweden vs. Switzerland.

It's never a bad time to visit Lake Baikal

Tourists can walk to the top of the Chersky viewpoint, about a kilometre uphill, for stunning views.
Tourists can walk to the top of the Chersky viewpoint, about a kilometre uphill, for stunning views.

Baikal is full of mystery but Jayaditya Gupta is most surprised to find more foreign tourists visit in the winter (temperatures around -25) than summer.

Watching Russia v Spain in the heart of Siberia

Fans celebrate Russia's first goal.
Fans celebrate Russia's opening goal.

Jayaditya Gupta hops bars to find a screening spot 3400km away from the nearest World Cup venue.

Cup of life: Meet the Chatterjees, football's favourite couple

Pannalal and Chaitali Chatterjee have been to every World Cup since the 1982 edition in Spain
Chaitali and Pannalal have the sort of enthusiasm people half their age would find hard to muster.

Kolkata's Pannalal and Chaitali Chatterjee have been to 10 World Cups, rubbed shoulders with Pele, consider Maradona their favourite, and share a passion for the game like no other.

Musings on train travel and Siberia-sized chicken

The size of the chicken dish on the Trans-Siberian Express is fitting for the scale of the place the train passes through.
The size of the chicken dish on the Trans-Siberian Express is fitting for the scale of the place the train passes through.

On Day 2 aboard the Trans-Siberian Express, Jayaditya Gupta reflects on train travel around the world and makes a successful visit to the restaurant car.

Smoked fish, fur hats and other firsts on the Trans-Siberian Express

Passengers take a smoking break in Omsk.
Passengers take a smoking break in Omsk.

Jayaditya Gupta has an interesting Day 1 aboard Rossiya, Train #002, the Trans-Siberian from Moscow to Vladivostok.

World Cup diaries: End of the Romanovs and start of a 3400-km journey

The Church on the Blood reflected in City Pond.
The Church on the Blood reflected in City Pond.

Jayaditya Gupta visits Ekaterinburg's Church on the Blood, the site where Nicholas II and his family were killed almost a century ago, before beginning a two-day-long train journey.

Spartak statues show how football can be more than life and death

The statue of the Starostin brothers inside Moscow's Spartak Stadium.
The statue of the Starostin brothers inside Moscow's Spartak Stadium.

Jayaditya Gupta on what the story of the Starostin brothers, who have a statue in their memory pitchside in Moscow's Spartak Stadium, represents.

What's it like to experience the Viking Clap?

Iceland fans show their support at the Volgograd Arena where they lost 2-0 to Nigeria.
Iceland fans show their support at the Volgograd Arena where they lost 2-0 to Nigeria.

Jayaditya Gupta experiences the Icelandic Viking Clap at the Volgograd Arena while also being impressed by the attendance figures so far in Russia.

The Battle of Stalingrad lives on outside the museums

The Grudinin mill is one of the few buildings in the entire city that was left standing after the Battle of Stalingrad.
The Grudinin mill is one of the few buildings in the entire city that was left standing after the Battle of Stalingrad.

Jayaditya Gupta walks around a city that wears its battle-scarred heart proudly on its sleeve.

How to watch Ronaldo (and not get bored)

Ronaldo puts Portugal ahead with a brave, diving header.

Who needs lung-busting runs or endless step-overs when you can create time and space where neither existed, and when it matters most?

Cristiano, the pantomime villain who wouldn't settle for second

The greatest showman: Cristiano Ronaldo has been a box office draw ever since he was a teenager
The greatest showman: Cristiano Ronaldo has been a box office draw ever since he was a teenager

Forever infuriating, forever inscrutable, but forever in command. There will never be another Cristiano Ronaldo, the very best in the business.

A visit to Stalin's Dacha

The study in Stalin's Dacha.
The study in Stalin's Dacha.

Jayaditya Gupta travels by bus from Sochi to Stalin's Dacha - country house - and comes away unsettled by how out of sync the place's surroundings are with the terrible deeds that emanated from there.

First-timers Panama look to upset powerhouse Belgium

Most people know little about Panama other than the canal and the hat. On Monday, in muggy Sochi, they will hope to become stars in their own right.
Most people know little about Panama other than the canal and the hat. On Monday, in muggy Sochi, they will hope to become stars in their own right.

Panama know that if Mexico, their group-mates in the North American qualifying zone, can pull off an upset, they too stand a chance against Belgium.


Fearless Godin a throwback to Milanesque defending

Tackling, blocking, intercepting; Diego Godin is everywhere
Tackling, blocking, intercepting; Diego Godin is everywhere.

Diego Godin plays tough, but plays fair. He is as commanding with the ball as he is without it. And that makes him one of the best around.


Day 4: Blaming Buenos Aires in quirky Ekaterinburg

A modern-day Stonehenge: No one seems to know quite why Ekaterinburg's famous keyboard installation was built.
A modern-day Stonehenge: No one seems to know quite why Ekaterinburg's famous keyboard installation was built.

Jayaditya Gupta appreciates the charms of Ekaterinburg -- but does not forget the lessons learnt at the last World Cup.



Day 3: Tackling time zones and boiled horns for breakfast

A train carrying football fans arrives at Leningradsky Railway Station in Moscow ahead of the 2018 World Cup.
A train carrying football fans arrives at Leningradsky Railway Station in Moscow ahead of the 2018 World Cup.

Jayaditya Gupta grapples with different time zones and discovers what happens when the World Cup hosts don't follow the Roman script.



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Day 2: The tourist attraction that is the Moscow Metro

The mosaics on the ceiling of the Mayakovskaya Metro station.
The mosaics on the ceiling of the Mayakovskaya Metro station.

On day two in Moscow, rain and a free transport pass led Jayaditya Gupta to explore the Moscow Metro and he was blown away by what he saw.


Day 1: Mkhitaryan fans, Lenin statues, never-ending escalators

The epitome of private enterprise: A grand statue of Lenin at Moscow's Luzhniki Stadium
The epitome of private enterprise: A grand statue of Lenin at Moscow's Luzhniki Stadium.

On day one in Moscow, an excited Jayaditya Gupta makes small talk with an Armenian cabbie and finds himself on a never-ending escalator.