Ashfak Mohamed guides you through the big day ...
At last! The 2018 Fifa World Cup kicks off today at 5pm, when hosts Russia take on rank outsiders Saudi Arabia at the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow.
So, exactly what can we expect on the first day of the biggest sporting event on the planet?
4.30pm: World Cup Opening Ceremony
Normally such drawn-out affairs, this opening ceremony is going to be the exception to the rule.
Just 15 minutes long, and just before the kickoff to the first match at 5pm, the performance will feature British pop star Robbie Williams – himself a huge football fan – alongside Russian soloist Aida Garifullina, as well as Italian opera singer Placido Domingo.
Short and sweet, which is what we want, so that we can get to the real action on the field!
— Robbie Williams (@robbiewilliams) June 11, 2018
5pm: Russia v Saudi Arabia
Not the most glamorous fixture you could’ve ever wished for, but still, the buzz and excitement of the Fifa World Cup finally starting will make up for the lack of big names. The two countries have only faced each other once, in October 1993, when the Saudis won a friendly 4-2.
Expect an even clash, with Russia ranked 70th (the lowest of the 32 teams) and Saudi Arabia 67th (Bafana Bafana are 74th, which puts it in perspective). The hosts, though, are battling for form going into the tournament, having lost six games in a row, while Saudi Arabia have recorded three victories in nine matches this year.
Russia will look to physically intimidate their opponents with a strong defence, with Saudi Arabia known for their skilful, quick style of play. Will the home advantage give Russia the edge?
Star player to watch:
Russia – Fyodor Smolov
Saudi Arabia – Mohammad Al-Sahlawi
Prediction: Russia 1-0 Saudi Arabia