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World Cup 2018: Vladimir Putin, Diego Maradona, Pele attend final draw

By Alex Butler
World Cup 2018: Vladimir Putin, Diego Maradona, Pele attend final draw
Russian President Vladimir Putin (front L), Brazilian soccer legend Pele (C) and former Argentine international Diego Maradona (R) pose for a picture before the start of the Final Draw of the FIFA World Cup 2018 at the State Kremlin Palace Friday in Moscow, Russia. Photo by Alexey Nikolsky/EPA-EFE/Sputnik/Kremlin Pool

Dec. 1 (UPI) -- Brazilian soccer legend Pele, Argentine icon Maradona and Russian President Vladimir Putin were in attendance for Friday's World Cup Final Draw.

The trio talked and took photos together during the event at the State Kremlin Palace in Moscow, Russia. Gary Lineker and Maria Komandnaya hosted the broadcast.

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"Our country is eager for the World Cup to start and intends to make it an event of the highest quality, where leading world football players will be able to show their mastery of the game, to show real big football," Putin said during the ceremony.

"We will do everything to turn it into a magnificent sports festival. But more importantly, to see it cement further the large and tight-knit international sports family. A family, which values most of all the sport itself, friendship and fair play, values that do not change with time."

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Friday's draw did not reveal an obvious Group of Death. Host Russia ended up in Group A, along with Uruguay, Egypt and Saudi Arabia.

"I can't say if the group's good or bad for us yet," Russia manager Stanislav Cherchesov said, according to FIFA. "The only evident advantage for us that I can see right now is that we will have tougher opponents with each game."

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CONFIRMED. The 2018 FIFA #WorldCup groups. Thoughts?

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Group B includes Portugal, Spain, Iran and Morocco. Group C includes France, Peru, Denmark and Australia. Group D includes Argentina, Croatia, Iceland and Nigeria. Group E includes Brazil, Switzerland, Costa Rica and Serbia. Group F includes Germany, Mexico, Sweden and South Korea. Group G includes Belgium, England, Tunisia and Panama. Group H includes Poland, Colombia, Senegal and Japan.

A retired soccer legend from each nation of past World Cup champions drew the teams. Gordon Banks, Miroslav Klose, Laurent Blanc, Carles Puyol, Digo Forlan and Fabio Cannavaro also attended.

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Germany is currently ranked No. 1 in the FIFA/Coca-Cola World Ranking, followed by Brazil, Portugal, Argentina, Belgium, Spain, Poland, Switzerland, France and Chile.

The United States failed to qualify for the tournament and is ranked No. 24 in the World. That ranking trails No. 22 Iceland, which is home to fewer than 350,000 people, compared to the United States population of more than 320 million.

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