By Michael Teich

Russia is still three victories away from hoisting up the FIFA World Cup 2018 trophy, but President Vladimir Putin may already be the tournament's champion.

"This is nothing but a diplomatic and political win for Putin," said Jeffrey Marcus, publisher of The Banter.

Russia’s victory over soccer powerhouse Spain in Sunday's Round of 16 shocked the sports community and prompted speculation that corruption could be a factor in the historic upset.

The country already engineered to get the World Cup by throwing money around to FIFA officials, said Marcus, and now it could be motivated to influence the outcome of matches. Marcus himself said he joked in his daily newsletter that "this was the biggest Russian upset since the 2016 election."

But Putin shouldn't feel the need to rig the games, Marcus said, because the Russian leader's World Cup campaign is successful just by "having a positive tournament that has gone on without a hitch."

“He looks like the leader of a legitimate government and an open society where people are having fun and rallying around soccer,” said Marcus.

“All of the other stuff when it comes to Russian politics and what Putin’s been doing has been brushed to the side.”

For full interview, click here.