MOSCOW (AP) — President Vladimir Putin is welcoming soccer teams and fans to Russia for the World Cup, saying the tournament will be thrilling and memorable.

"For our country, it's a great joy and honor to receive representatives from the massive footballing family," Putin said in a video statement released Saturday. He promised "a real celebration - filled with sporting passion and strong emotions."

Putin added "I hope that you will have lasting memories, not only of the matches of the best teams and the skills of the players, but also of your acquaintance with Russia - its distinctive culture, unique history and rich character and her hospitable, sincere and friendly people."

He concluded in English, saying "Welcome to Russia."