World Cup 2018 – LIVE: Latest news and updates ahead of the opening ceremony and big kick-off in Russia

The 2018 World Cup is finally here with the eyes of the globe turning towards Russia.

It promises to be an action-packed, drama-filled month as 736 players from 32 nations arrive for a feast of football. Brazil, Spain and Germany arrive as tournament favourites with Gareth Southgate‘s England heading in with plenty of hope if not much expectation. They face Tunisia in Volgograd on Monday before taking on Panama and Belgium in Group G.

They have trained in Repino for the first time with the tournament kicking off in earnest on Thursday afternoon when the hosts face Saudi Arabia. That, of course, comes after the not-at-all tedious opening ceremony.

We will have all the latest news, views, pictures and video direct from Russia throughout the day as we build up to the start of the biggest football tournament in the world.

Live Updates

So why are Russia the lowest ranked side in the World Cup?

Check out the Independent’s very own Jack Pitt-Brooke who details their problems here:

Why are Russia so bad at football?

The IndependentThe league’s foreigner rule, which dictates that each side must field at least five Russian players, has hindered the national side’s development

Meanwhile, things haven’t been much better for Russia’s opponents, Saudi Arabia. 

The Green Falcons have lost their last three friendlies although two of them were respectable 2-1 defeats against Italy and Germany. 

Sandwiched between them was a demolition job as Peru put them to the sword, winning 3-0. 

And off the pitch, things don’t look much rosier with two managers fired since qualifying for their fifth World Cup. 

So, as far as calling today’s game is concerned, I’ll sit firmly on the fence.

But what about the teams themselves?

We’ll start with Russia who go into today’s opening game as the lowest rank side in the competition, 70th in Fifa’s official standings.

Perhaps automatic qualification as hosts has played its part in that, but, with no victory in their last five, and none since October 2017, ambition has faded for the 2008 European Championship semi-finalists. 

The first game of the World Cup sees Russia face Saudi Arabia at 16:00, but, before then, it’s the small matter of the Opening Ceremony.

Around 500 dancers, gymnasts and trampolinists will represent all things Russian before a closing firework display. 

And, England’s very own Robbie Williams will be performing alongside young Russian artist Aida Garifullina.

The former Take That star said: “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.”

Good morning and welcome to today’s Independent World Cup blog.

The 2018 Fifa World Cup kicks off today in Moscow with excitement building ahead of the biggest football tournament on the planet.

We’ll bring you all the latest news on that plus all the best pictures and video from Russia throughout the day right here so don’t touch that dial.
Without further ado, off we go.

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