Russia vs Saudi Arabia

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The 2018 World Cup kicks off on Thursday as host Russia takes on Saudi Arabia. It’s the opener of the tournament, which means it’ll probably be the most watched game involving these two teams in Group A. The host nation and Saudi Arabia will battle for three vital points, with the group’s second match between Uruguay and Egypt arriving on Friday.

Winning the first match you play is key if you are to move on, and the pressure is on Russia to deliver in front of its home crowd in Moscow.

Russia enters the match in full strength but has yet to win a friendly in 2018, with two of the matches coming against Brazil and France. Will all the tests pay off in the opener?

Saudi Arabia, meanwhile, played well in a 2-1 loss to Germany last week and is confident it can get something in this game. Nobody on the team will be more hungry to deliver than coach Juan Antonio Pizzi, who failed to guide Chile to qualification to the World Cup but still managed to make the tournament himself after landing the Saudi gig in November. Eyes across the planet will be on the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow on Thursday, as host nation Russia get the FIFA World Cup under way against Saudi Arabia.

The first match of this competition is always an event to be savoured, and the weight of pressure of an expectant country will fall on the shoulders of the Russian side. The preparation for the tournament hasn’t been ideal for Stanislav Cherchesov’s team, though.

Saudi Arabia manager Juan Antonio Pizzi will hope his players can spring a shock in the Russian capital.

While there are more glamorous matches to come, this is not an occasion to be missed, as the World Cup begins in earnest. Here are the viewing details for the World Cup curtain-raiser.This year’s World Cup finals will open with a Group A fixture between host nation Russia and Saudi Arabia on June 14 at the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow, kicking off the beginning of the group stages.

Thursday’s match will be the only one held on that day to coincide with the opening ceremony, with three group stage fixtures taking place each day until June 28.

Russia are first-time hosts of the tournament and qualified automatically, and will be making their fourth appearance at the finals. Saudi Arabia’s best result at a World Cup was finishing in the last 16 in 1994, and will be hoping for a better finish this tournament.Around 500 dancers, gymnasts and trampolinists will be performing in an opening extravaganza that will pay homage to all things Russian. The ceremony will close with a firework display.

After Jennifer Lopez and Pitbull combined in an eye-raising duet for the opening ceremony in Brazil, former Take That star Robbie Williams will be performing alongside young Russian artist, Aida Garifullina.I’m so happy and excited to be going back to Russia for such a unique performance. I’ve done a lot in my career, and opening the FIFA World Cup to 80,000 football fans in the stadium and many millions all over the world is a boyhood dream,” said Williams.

“We’d like to invite football and music fans to party with us in Russia, in the stadium, or to tune in their TVs a little earlier for an unforgettable show,” he added.

Opera singer Placido Domingo – who famously soundtracked Italia ’90 as one of the Three Tenors alongside Luciano Pavarotti and José Carreras – will be performing. Peruvian tenor Juan Diego Florez will join him. Wallchart affixed to fridge door with novelty football magnets? Tick. Panini album half-filled in and forgotten about? Tick. Seventeen different World Cup supplements devoured and scoured? Tick. Profiles of all 736 players travelling to Russia from Big Website’s interactive memorised? Tick. Big Paper’s 100-page guide to World Cup 2018 on standby for pub debate settlement? Tickety-tick tick tick! Armed with all the requisite gear but still as clueless as ever, your World Cup FiveЯ is so wound up with anticipation it could be nicknamed “The Fever”, so giddy with excitement do we find ourselves as we continue the countdown to Thursday, when the competition kicks off.

Of course no Fifa competition worth its salt can start without an official opening ceremony, the kind of garish, bland and inoffensive jamborees that are eagerly anticipated on the grounds that they: a) signal the beginning of a month’s worth of non-stop competitive international football action; and b) raise the comic possibility of seeing a former lead singer of the Supremes attempt the kind of penalty fans don’t normally expect to see taken so inexpertly until England have made it through to the knockout stages. Of course, in the interests of historical accuracy and pedantry it should be noted that Diana Ross famously shanked her spot-kick wide of a collapsible goal’s upright ahead of USA! USA!! USA!!! 94, a competition at which England – unlike Diana – didn’t actually get to kick a ball.