It is minus six degrees and air billows crisply from the mouths of Muscovites as they march briskly across Red Square, crunching the covering of snow even further underfoot.
St Basil’s Cathedral stands as impressive as ever, it’s brightly-coloured domes echoing the festive fun of a Christmas fair laid out across the famous cobblestones, a melancholy barrel-organ’s chimes echoing off the black mausoleum of Vladimir Ilyich Lenin, still lying peacefully in state despite the advent of the World Cup and all its accompanying hullabaloo.
The main accreditation centre is within a palatial museum celebrating victory in the “patriotic war” against Napoleon’s forces; preparations for the draw itself takes place within the Kremlin itself while, in a neighbouring building, Vladimir Putin controls this behemoth of a global superpower.
Every statue, inscription and ornament screams history. But while that is the subject foremost in Southgate’s mind, he is not so much worried about the mightier armies that could await England today as some of those resilient smaller foes.
There is a 40 per cent chance of getting Argentina or Brazil, but Iceland and Costa Rica are both possibilities…