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What is it?

The curtain-raiser to the 2018 World Cup sees hosts Russia take on Saudi Arabia.

When is it?

Thursday June 14.

What time is kick off?

4pm UK time.

Where is it being played?

The match will immediately follow the opening ceremony, which is taking place in the Luzhniki Stadium.

With kick off scheduled for 4pm UK time, the opening ceremony will begin just 30 minutes before the start of the game.

What TV channel is it on?

Gary-Neville

Both the World Cup opening ceremony and the first game of the tournament will be shown live on ITV 1.

ITV begin their build up to the first match from 2:30pm.

See what channel every World Cup game will be on here. 

What will the opening ceremony involve?

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The trophy evert ream will be playing for in Russia

Around 500 dancers, gymnasts and trampolinists will be performing in an opening extravaganza that will pay homage to all things Russian. The ceremony will close with a firework display.

After Jennifer Lopez and Pitbull combined in an eye-raising duet for the opening ceremony in Brazil, former Take That star Robbie Williams will be performing alongside young Russian artist,  Aida Garifullina.

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Robbie Williams will be one of a number of artists to perform at the opening ceremony

“I’m so happy and excited to be going back to Russia for such a unique performance. 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,” said Williams.

“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,” he added.

Opera singer Placido Domingo – who famously soundtracked Italia ’90 as one of the Three Tenors alongside Luciano Pavarotti and José Carreras – will be performing. Peruvian tenor Juan Diego Florez will join him.

What are the squads?

Saudi Arabia

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Saudi Arabia is playing in their first World Cup since 2006

Goalkeepers: Mohammed Al Owais (Al Ahli), Yasser Al Mosailem (Al Ahli), Abdullah Al Mayouf (Al Hilal).

Defenders: Mansoor Al Harbi (Al Ahli), Yasser Al Shahrani (Al Hilal) Mohammed Al Breik (Al Hilal), Motaz Hawsawi (Al Ahli), Osama Hawsawi (Al Hilal), Omar Hawsawi (Al Nassr), Ali Al Bulaihi (Al Hilal).

Midfielders: Abdullah Al Khaibari (Al Shabab), Abdulmalek Al Khaibri (Al Hilal), Abdullah Otayf (Al Hilal), Taiseer Al Jassim (Al Ahli), Houssain Al Mogahwi (Al Ahli), Salman Al Faraj, Mohamed Kanno (both Al Hilal), Hattan Bahebri (Al Shabab), Salem Al Dawsari (Al Hilal), Yahya Al Shehri (Al Nassr), Fahad Al Muwallad (Al Ittihad)

Forwards: Mohammad Al Sahlawi (Al Nassr), Muhannad Assiri (Al Ahli)

Russia

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Russia will be one of the least-fancied World Cup hosts in history

Goalkeepers: Igor Akinfeev (CSKA Moscow), Vladimir Gabulov (Brugge), Andrei Lunyov (Zenit St. Petersburg).

Defenders: Mario Fernandes (CSKA Moscow), Vladimir Granat (Rubin Kazan), Sergei Ignashevich (CSKA Moscow), Fyodor Kudryashov (Rubin Kazan), Ilya Kutepov (Spartak Moscow), Andrei Semyonov (Akhmat Grozny), Igor Smolnikov (Zenit St. Petersburg).

Midfielders: Denis Cheryshev (Villarreal), Alan Dzagoev (CSKA Moscow), Yuri Gazinsky (FC Krasnodar), Alexander Golovin (CSKA Moscow), Daler Kuzyaev (Zenit St. Petersburg), Anton Miranchuk (Lokomotiv Moscow), Alexander Samedov (Spartak Moscow), Alexander Yerokhin (Zenit St. Petersburg), Yuri Zhirkov (Zenit St. Petersburg), Roman Zobnin (Spartak Moscow).

Forwards: Artyom Dzyuba (Arsenal Tula), Alexei Miranchuk (Lokomotiv Moscow), Fyodor Smolov (FC Krasnodar).

How have both teams been preparing?

Saudi Arabia

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Saudi Arabia lost a pre-World Cup friendly to an Italy team that welcomed back Mario Balotelli after a four-year absense

Saudi Arabia stepped up their World Cup preparations in an international friendly with Italy.

Yahya Al Shehri scored Saudi Arabia’s only goal in a 2-1 defeat to the Azzurri, who will not be represented at this year’s World Cup.

Former Manchester City and Liverpool forward Mario Balotelli scored in his first international start for four years in Roberto Mancini’s first game in charge since become Italy’s new head coach.

Preparations for Russia have been far from ideal since qualifying for a fifth World Cup, with two coaches fired. Edgardo Bauza was dismissed nine days before the draw after only five friendlies in charge.

The team lost to Portugal and Bulgaria last month. Bauza had been appointed in September to replace Bert van Marwijk, who was fired despite leading the team to their first World Cup since 2006.

Juan Antonio Pizzi, who was only named on Tuesday as the new coach, will be tasked with improving on Saudi Arabia’s best-ever performance at World Cup – the second-round exit to Sweden at the 1994 tournament in the United States.

Russia 

When the Russians launched their bid to host the World Cup for the first time, they were on a high after reaching the semi-finals at the 2008 European Championship. Times have changed.

Russia go into the draw as the lowest-ranked of the 32 teams, having failed to advance past the group stage of any tournament since 2008. Ambitious talk of reaching the quarter-finals or even semi-finals has faded.

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Former Chelsea full-back Yuri Zhirkov has been named in Russia’s World Cup squad

After bypassing the qualification process as tournament hosts, Russia have endured a torrid run of results that has seen them plummet to number 66 in the Fifa rankings.

Their last victory came against South Korea in October 2017 and since then they have gone five games without victory.

What are the betting odds?

  • Russia 1/3
  • Saudi Arabia 10/1
  • Draw 7/2

What is our prediction?

Russia 2 Saudi Arabia 0

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