Robbie Williams’ finger-show to the screen and in turn to millions of viewers around the world is now picking up steam on social media. That certainly would go down as a candidate for the top 10 standout World Cup moments videos and listicles that will be made in the future. The opening ceremony itself looked like a rather hurried up affair with Russian, Robbie Williams and Aida Garifullina’s music all smashed together with some football peppered in between. There was no Will Smith and Nicky Jam though, unlike what some (LIVE Russia vs Saudi Arabia|Follow Malayalam updates here)
FIFA World Cup 2018 Opening ceremony highlights:
The end of the opening ceremony, the start of the World Cup
The Russia and Saudi Arabian teams have lined up and the national anthems of the two nations blare out in the stadium. It is the Saudi anthem that comes first and after that the entire stadium goes up as one for the Russian anthem. So that's it from here and, as stated before, we have a live blog of the match up and running.
Vladimir Putin speaks and that is followed by FIFA president Gianni Infantino. 'Football will conquer Russia and through Russia, football will conquer the entire world,' he says.
Some typical Robbie Williams-ism
The pop star proceeds to perform his song Rock DJ and in the middle of his set, shows the finger to the camera. Pretty sure the broadcasters did a double take there.
The symbolic first kick
Ronaldo passes the Telstar 18 to the mascot Zabivaka for the symbolic first kick. Robbie Williams and that kid, whose name or identity has not really been revealed follow suit. Oh wait no, Williams faints the kick and it is only the kid who passes the ball to the mascot.
Robbie Williams belts out his hits
If there are any Robbie Williams fans out there, you would probably say that he had cut short his hit single Feel. He follows that up with Angels and is joined by Aida Garifullina for this.
We are up and running!
So it all starts with a pre-recorded vidoei with Tchaikovski playing in the background. A boy seems to be running and flying through the streets and skies of Moscow as a running theme. We then cut to the Luzhniki stadium where the boy walks out with Brazilian great Ronaldo. Robbie Williams follows and he performs Queen's Let Me Entertain You.
The great Spanish saga
Julen Lopetegui revitalized Spain after their 2014 debacle in Brazil, La Roja came into the tournament as favourites, everything was hunky-dory and then Real Madrid dropped a bombshell announcement of signing Lopetegui as their new manager two days before the start of the World Cup. The Spanish FA were left with a red face (note the pun) and acted accordingly. They fired Lopetegui the very next day and former Spanish centre-back Fernando Hierro was appointed as his replacement. And now Real Madrid have officially presented Lopetegui as their new boss.
The tournament match-ball
The Adidas Telstar 18 is the official match ball for Russia 2018. The World Cup balls are considered an integral part of each tournament and it is also the reason for a lit of frustrated grumbles from the players. The goalkeepers aren't particularly happy with this one because of it apparently being too flighty and difficult to hold. It does look good though.
Pics from Moscow
The buildup to the World Cup is often as intriguing as the tournament itself. The despair and disappointment of losses, which is what all teams but one suffer in the World Cup, sets in once the tournament starts but before that, the venue is nothing but a place teeming with cultures from across the world and hope. A Saudi Arabia fan holds a replica world cup outside the stadium before the match (Source: Reuters) General view of a fans match ticket outside the stadium before the match. (Source: Reuters)Supporters of the Columbia cheer during a gathering on the eve of the 2018 FIFA World Cup in central Moscow. (Source: Reuters)Supporters of the Egyptian national soccer team take a selfie with a street performer dressed as Father Frost, the Russian equivalent of Santa Clause. (Source: Reuters)(Source: Reuters)(Source: Reuters)
Acquaint yourself with the teams
You may not know much about Saudi Arabia or Russia, which really is no surprise. So the folks at Sony were kind enough to send some interesting trivia around the two teams.
1) Among the 32 teams that will be competing at this year competition, the two nations, Russia and Saudi Arabia, in Group A are the teams with the lowest rankings. Russia is ranked 70 in the world while Saudi Arabia is three rankings above them at 67. They are the minnows coming into the Finals, but one shouldn’t underestimate them considering the talent they possess.
2) Double blast at World Cup - Anton Miranchuk & Aleksey Miranchuk is the only twin present at this edition of the tournament. Both play for Lokomotiv Moscow. They managed to turn around the club’s fortune by lifting the title as the young 22 year old twins were instrumental in the club’s success. The fans would hope that the Miranchuks do something similar for their national team as well at this year’s finals.
3) Saudi Arabia is one of the most successful football teams in Asia. They have won the Asian Championship 3 times and has qualified for the FIFA World Cup four times, the first of which was in 1994.
4) Among the qualified teams for the World Cup, interestingly the Saudi Arabian squad are the shortest with an average height of 176.2. The Russian squad on the other hand have an average height of 184.3. The Arabs would like to keep it short and sweet in Russia.
5) The average age of the Saudi Arabian squad is 28.7, while that of the Russian side is 28.1. Both the teams have a good mix of experience and youth which is ideal for any international team. It is now upto players how they use it to their advantage.
6) History: Ten appearances at the World Cup finals but have not progressed from the group stage since the breakup of the Soviet Union. Best finish - as Soviet Union - remains fourth in 1966.
7) Russia’s claim to glory moment came in 1994 World Cup USA when Oleg Salenko, their striker made history by thumping in five goals against Cameroon thus becoming the first and only player to achieve such a feat in a world cup match.
8) No goalkeeper in World Cup history has conceded more goals than Mohamed Al-Deayea, who conceded 25 goals over four World Cups from 1994 to 2006.
The first match
After an opening ceremony, which we expect to be quite a spectacle, the World Cup kicks off with an exciting match between.......two of the lowest ranked teams in the tournament. Russia (ranked 70) and Saudi Arabia (ranked 67) play each other for only the second time in their history. The last time this match happened was an international friendly in 1993.
Salah to play
Egypt coach Hector Cuper says that he is nearly 100 percent sure that Mohamed Salah will be playing Egypt's opening match against Uruguay tomorrow. Cupper said that officials are still observing Salah but it looks like he is own the road to completely recovering from the shoulder injury he sustained while playing for Liverpool in the Champions League final.
What to expect?
The tentative time for the Opening ceremony to start is around 6.30 PM IST but the details of the entire running order are embargoed until the start of the ceremony itself. What we can tell you is that you will see Will Smith and Nicky Jam belting out the World Cup anthem for this year. In case you haven't heard it yet, don't worry, you haven't missed anything. In fact, I recommend muting your TV when it is playing. If you are following the opening ceremony through this humble blog and you do want to check it out, here you go. Click at your own peril.
British pop star Robbie Williams will be there which is quite interesting considering that just two years ago the Russian media were calling for his blood for his Party Like A Russian. Russian soprano Aida Garifullina will also be there and finally, the original Ronaldo, the legend of Brazil, scourge of defenders for most of the 90's and the noughties, winner of no less than two World Cups - the list of accolades is practically endless. Do stick around as we countdown to the opening ceremony and hope that either of the celebrities do something akin to what Diana Ross did in the 1994 World Cup.
It is World Cup time!!
Russia is ready for World Cup! So are we. But before the World Cup officially starts, there will be an opening ceremony in Moscow. 32 teams will be participating in the World and for the next 32 days, Russia will host them. 64 games in 11 cities. It all begins today!