Football (soccer) fans wait in anticipation for the opening of one of the biggest events in global sports every four years. Today in Moscow a colorful opening ceremony marked the start of the 2018 FIFA World Cup at Luzhniki Stadium, ahead of the first match between Russia and Saudi Arabia. Hosting the World Cup is both a first for Russia and the Caspian region.
The ceremony kicked off with all the pomp and pageantry expected of an event that will have sports aficionados fixated on as the summer starts and national rivalries heat up. Eyes will be fixated on the 32 national football teams that will compete for the coveted gold trophy, to be awarded at after the final match on Sunday, July 15.
Russian opera singer Aida Garifullina and popstar Robbie Williams performed at the opening in Moscow on Thursday, Famed and no-retired footballer Ronaldo Nazario joined in the opening celebration, which was followed by a concert in the Red Square.
Generally, Russia will see 64 matches that will be played in 11 different cities throughout the country from June 14 through July 15. Hosting the World Cup cost Russia billions of dollars. More than $10 billion was spent only for building new stadiums and refurbishing existing ones. Moscow’s Luzhniki Stadium seats 80,000, where seven games of the cup will be played, including both a semi-final and final match. Eleven other stadiums across Russia will host group stage matches.
Two of the five Caspian countries, namely Russia and Iran, will be represented at the games. Iran’s national football team will face Morocco tomorrow, and then will have matches against Spain and Portugal, all within Group B. After the match against Saudi Arabia, Russia’s national team will play against Egypt and Uruguay, all within Group A.
The heads of Caspian states, namely Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev and Kazakhstani President Nursultan Nazarbayev, attended the opening ceremony at the invitation of Russian President Vladimir Putin, according to Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov.