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Friday, 24 May, 2002, 10:06 GMT 11:06 UK
Putin visits Russia squad
Vladimir Putin poses with the Russian national squad
Putin was a welcome visitor to the training camp

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President Vladimir Putin was given a squad shirt with his name on it by team captain Viktor Onopko after the Russian leader visited the national side at their training base on the outskirts of Moscow.

After meeting the players and coaching staff, Putin made an emotional speech wishing the team success at the World Cup.

"Allowing myself to speak on behalf of people who love football, I can say that of course we are waiting for you to win," said Putin.

"We are expecting that you will let fewer balls into your goal and will get more balls into the goal of other teams.

"However, most of all, we are waiting for you to show us a real, masculine game, commitment and real courage."

A day before the squad head to Japan, where Group H matches against Tunisia, Belgium and the hosts await, Putin said he hoped the team would play with pride.

"Of course we are hoping for victories - but most of all we ask you to display courage, self-sacrifice and beautiful football," he said.

Onopko, speaking to Russian daily Sport-Express, said he was pleased that Putin visited the squad.

Russia deputy manager Mikhail Gershkovich was quoted as saying that Putin's presence with the team would strengthen it.

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GROUP H
  P GD PTS
JAPAN 3 +3 7
BELGIUM 3 +1 5
RUSSIA 3 0 3
TUNISIA 3 -4 1

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