By Oluwatoyin Adeleye
Russia put on a star-studded display at the opening ceremony of the world cup to officially commence the start of the football competition.
The tournament kicked off in earnest with Russia taking on Saudi Arabia at the Luzhniki Stadium, with the hosts harbouring the added pressure of impressing in front of their home fans.
Thousands of revellers packed inside the sold-out stadium to witness the dazzling opening ceremony, with all the bells and whistles which have become synonymous with similar events of World Cups’ past.
Representing the UK at the event was pop sensation Robbie Williams, who performed three songs as part of the opening ceremony for the 2018 World Cup – with his controversial single ‘Party Like a Russian’ not included on the set-list.
The decision to book the former Take That member to sing at the opening ceremony met with surprise when it was announced by FIFA on Monday.
The plans for the opening ceremony at the Luzhniki Stadium had been a closely-guarded secret.
Williams – described by FIFA as a ‘global music icon’ – performed at certain points throughout the scheduled 15-minute pre-tournament build-up.
The 44-year-old opened with his 1998 single ‘Let Me Entertain You’ at the start of proceedings after spending time on stage with former Brazil striker Ronaldo.
Russian harpist Alexander Boldachev then took centre-stage, with a large ‘fire bird’ entering the pitch carrying operatic performer Aida Garifullina.
She performed a duet of Williams’ smash-hit ‘Angels’ with the Stoke-born singer, who also brought the ceremony to a close with the hit’.
Former Spain captain Iker Casillas lifted the World Cup in 2010 and brought the trophy out ahead of the ceremony, with the 32 flags representing the competing nations unfurled during the the performance of ‘Angels’.
Around 800 people were involved in the on-stage activities, which were held closer to kick-off than in recent finals.
Williams said opening the event to 80,000 fans and many millions all over the world was a boyhood dream, and added: ‘We’d like to invite football and music fans to party with us in Russia, in the stadium, or to tune in their TVs a little earlier for an unforgettable show.’
Former Spain captain Iker Casillas lifted the World Cup in 2010 and will bring the trophy out ahead of the ceremony, with the 32 flags representing the competing nations being unfurled during the the performance of ‘Angels’.
In the first game to start the tournament, Russia mauled Saudi Arabia who were guilty for their lackluster defending. The goals were scored by Yuri Gazinsky, Denis Cheryshev who scored a brace, Artem Dzyuba and Aleksandr Golovin.
The other game in the group between Egypt and Uruguay will be played today by 1pm.
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