Forget the football, Vladimir Putin is the real World Cup winner

    Putin has a go at the World Cup football park in Red Square.

    Moscow (CNN)Vladimir Putin is having a good World Cup.

    The Russian leader has played statesman since the beginning of the tournament, playing host to presidents and prime ministers.
    More than 2.5 million tickets have been allocated to fans from Russia and around the world, showcasing his country as a tourist destination.
      And the Russian national team -- which went into the tournament as the lowest-ranked side -- has performed beyond all expectation.
      The World Cup has also raised Putin's geopolitical profile. In a meeting with the Russian President in Moscow on Wednesday, US national security adviser John Bolton complimented Putin, telling him he was eager to learn "how you handled the World Cup so successfully, among other things."
      That's more than just a diplomatic nicety. In terms of optics, the World Cup appears poised to close a chapter that began in Sochi for Putin.