As home side Russia face Saudi Arabia at 9pm Bangladesh standard time, the host nation, organising the World Cup for the first time in history, is focused on starting the greatest show on Earth on a good note
The stage is set. All roads lead to Moscow's Luzhniki Stadium where the curtains will be raised Thursday on the 2018 Fifa World Cup.
As home side Russia face Saudi Arabia at 9pm Bangladesh standard time, the host nation, organising the World Cup for the first time in history, is focused on starting the greatest show on Earth on a good note.
There will be a compact opening ceremony that will focus on a series of musical acts, with British singer Robbie Williams scheduled to perform just 30 minutes before the start of the opening match.
Around 500 dancers, gymnasts and trampolinists will also be performing in front of a crowd of around 80,000 at the Luzhniki.
"No matter what, we have to get out of the group" @TeamRussia stars Fyodor Smolov & Aleksandr Samedov speak on the eve of their #WorldCup opener 🇷🇺💪— FIFA World Cup 🏆 (@FIFAWorldCup) June 13, 2018
🗣️👉 https://t.co/no9qg8QZhH pic.twitter.com/AcbWfvbCag
Moscow is still very quiet, and has been well managed by the organisers. Fans are making their marks in small groups, wearing their team’s jerseys and proudly holding onto the flags. The atmosphere is quite festive, but not that much crowded.
Both the participating teams had their last official practice sessions at the venue, followed by the official press conferences.
Russia head coach Stanislav Cherchesov urged his team to ignore the media criticism ahead of Thursday’s World Cup kick-off against Saudi Arabia, and focus on winning the game.
Russia entered the tournament in the worst possible fashion after slumping to 70th position in the latest Fifa ranking, which is the worst among all the participating teams. They won none of the last seven matches they played.
Achilles the cat, Russia 2018's official oracle, has predicted that Russia will beat Saudi Arabia in tomorrow's opening game. 🇷🇺— Squawka Football (@Squawka) June 13, 2018
Now time for today's Squawka Suggests. pic.twitter.com/fr1TSUPG00
The Russian media has highly criticised the downfall, but the head coach is treating it lightly. During the presser, he said: "We have to take all the criticism and turn it into something positive."
However, the fight between the two lowest-ranked World Cup teams (Russia – 70, Saudi Arabia – 67) in accordance with the current Fifa ranking might just prove to be the worst possible opening game.
It is probably the poorest ever opening match in recent history – at least on paper. The main reason behind this is down to the rule made after the France 2002 World Cup. Back then, the reigning champion used to open the tournament.
In 2006, Brazil, ranked third back then, played the 18th-ranked Croatia in the opening game. It proved to be one of the most mouthwatering opening matches in the recent past.
In Russia though, the two teams combine to make a rank of 133 – the highest of the last seven tournaments. But football is a game of glorious uncertainty. You don't necessarily need big names and top-ranked teams to make for a good game of football. Who knows, they can give us a huge surprise when the ball rolls on the ground.