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Russian hopes, fears tied up in Putin's showcase World Cup
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MOSCOW (AP) — Russian President Vladimir Putin claims soccer and politics have nothing to do with each other, yet the World Cup he kicked off Thursday is about much more than sports. It's about proving to the world that Russia is a global power broker and not an outcast, that it's an open, confident and generous nation — and not an isolated, repressive place hobbled by sanctions. And the beleaguered Russian team's stunning 5-0 victory in the tournament opener Thursday against Saudi Arabia was just what Putin needed to make the point that Russia is ascendant again.

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