Blatter shakes hands with Putin during the preliminary draw for the 2018 FIFA World Cup in St. Petersburg, Russia. REUTERS
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FIFA and Sepp Blatter put their corruption crisis aside and got back to World Cup business at the 2018 tournament qualifying draw hosted by Vladimir Putin at a Russian state residence Saturday.With the focus once more on football, the embattled FIFA leadership and much-criticized host nation Russia could display a confident and united front during a slickly staged show."Thank you President Putin, you make us happy and comfortable," Blatter said, making his first trip outside his native Switzerland since mid-May. He has avoided FIFA business in countries which have extradition treaties with the United States.Blatter was re-elected FIFA president two days later with support from Putin, who hinted the United States was meddling in football's affairs to help strip Russia of the 2018 World Cup.Sport mixed with politics in one part of the draw as the U.S. will travel during regional group play to Trinidad and Tobago, where indicted former FIFA vice president Jack Warner is fighting extradition.Opening the draw, FIFA paired four continents whose teams take part in two-leg playoffs in November 2017 that will complete the World Cup lineup.Putin should still be in power then, alongside a new FIFA president.
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