Squeaky bum time as Russia hosts Saudi Arabia in 2018 FIFA World Cup opener

FIFA World Cup 2018:

  • Opening Match: Russia Vs Saudi Arabia (Group A)
  • At Luzhniki Stadium, Moscow

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Russia
The Luzhniki stadium that will host the official opening match and final of the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia

The FIFA World Cup is no doubt the world’s best sporting fiesta.

The 21st edition officially kicks off on Thursday when host nation Russia will take on Saudi Arabia at the gigantic Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow city.

The hosts will field 38-year-old Sergei Ignashevich as he is expected to become the oldest Russian to play at the World Cup.

Before the game, there will be a colourful opening ceremony with magnificent performances.

This football’s showpiece event features 32 teams, including holders Germany, competing in 64 games over 32 days.

The tournament will be played across 12 stadia, in 11 cities, spread over 1,800 miles.

Germany, who defeated Argentina in the 2014 final, are looking to become the first team to win back-to-back World Cups since 1962, while Brazil seek a record-extending sixth world title.

AP/ Alexander Mysyakin
Russia’s national team
Saudi Arabia team

African is represented by five countries Nigeria, Algeria, Senegal, Morocco and Egypt.

Panama and Iceland will be competing at their first World Cup, which is held every four years.

With a population of approximately 335,000 people, Iceland are the smallest nation ever to qualify.

The month-long tournament is expected to attract one and a half million fans to Russia and an estimated global television audience of over three billion viewers.

There are eight groups, each containing four teams, with the top two advancing to the last 16.

The final takes place at the 81,000-capacity Luzhniki Stadium on 15 July 2018.

For the first time ever in the history of the World Cup, Video Assistant Refereeing (VAR) technology will be applied at this tournament.

Who are the favourites?

World Cup holders Germany, five-time winners Brazil, Euro 2016 winners Portugal, 2014 runners-up Argentina, Belgium, Poland and 1998 winners France are among the eight seeded teams.

Hosts Russia are also seeded, even though they are the tournament’s lowest-placed team – 70th in the latest FIFA Rankings.

England, who have won only one of their past eight World Cup matches, are unseeded, as are 2010 champions Spain.

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