"Men in Blazers" co-host Roger Bennett says the upbeat mood and sparkling stadiums that make this the most entertaining World Cup of his lifetime also proved to be "an incredible propaganda coup" for the tournament's host nation.
"The aim of the World Cup from the Russian perspective is pretty clear, which is to have millions of people from around the world see Russia in a different light ... an eerily normalized light," Bennett tells co-host Jim Litke and Tim Dahlberg in World Cup: Episode 12 of "PodcastOne Sports Now" show.
"It's like 'The Handmaid's Tale' he added, "but it's working."
But Bennett said the action and storylines playing out on the field has delivered great drama, and it doesn't hurt that the English team he grew up cheering as a young boy in Liverpool is still in the hunt.
Also on the show: Litke and Dahlberg pay their respects to the late Jim O'Connell, whose seminal role covering college basketball earned him a spot in the game's Hall of Fame.