THE World Cup kicks off in Russia on Thursday night (AEST) as years of preparations dogged by diplomatic scandals give way to a month of action on the field in football’s global showpiece.
OPENING CEREMONY: ROBBIE WILLIAMS’ BIZARRE SUIT
Russia get the ball rolling against Saudi Arabia at the completely refurbished 80,000-capacity Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow after an opening ceremony attended by Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Saudi Arabia XI: Al-Maiouf; Alburayk,Hawsawi,Hawsawi, Al-Shahrani; Otayf, Al-Dawsari, Al-Faraj, Al-Jassam; Al-Shehri, Al-Sahlawi
Russia XI: Akinfeev (gk, C), Fernandes, Kutepov, Ignashevich, Zhirkov, Gazinskiy, Zobnin, Samedov, Golovin, Dzagoev, Smolov
Russia v Saudi Arabia kicks off 1am Friday AEST. Follow live below!
Russia enter their first home World Cup in the worst possible form. They have beaten both Russian and Soviet records by going winless in seven matches and slumping to 70th in the world, the lowest of the 32 teams in the tournament.
“We have to take all the criticism and turn it into something positive,” Russia coach Stanislav Cherchesov said.
The Russian side is headlined by recognisable names like ex-Chelsea full back Yuri Zhirkov as well as CSKA moscow trio Alan Dzagoev, Aleksandr Golovin and captain-keeper Igor Akinfeev. While Fyodr Smolov will lead the line.
While the Saudi side doesn’t boast any standouts, they’ll be ready to push for an upset under Juan Antonio Pizzi.
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