The opening ceremony of the 2018 Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) World Cup has been held in Russia, marking the official inauguration of the quadrennial international sports event revered worldwide by soccer enthusiasts.
The grand festivities, which caught the eyes of millions of people across the globe, started on Thursday afternoon at the Luzhniki Stadium in the Russian capital city of Moscow, where around 500 performers and gymnasts performed in an extravaganza dedicated to Russian culture and traditions.
The opening ceremony took place some 30 minutes prior to the match between the Russia and Saudi Arabia men’s national football teams in the 80,000-seaster Luzhniki Stadium.
Retired Brazilian professional footballer Ronaldo Luís Nazário de Lima, commonly known as Ronaldo, featured in the ceremony representing "the football glory that all players will be hoping to achieve on Russian soil."
A number of high-ranking world sports officials and politicians, including FIFA President Gianni Infantino, Russian President Vladimir Putin and Saudi crown prince Mohammed Bin Salman, attended the opening.
Achilles, a deaf white cat which is the official animal soothsayer for the tournament, chose on Wednesday a bowl of food bearing the Russia’s flag rather than that of Saudi Arabia.
The blue-eyed feline is usually part of a team of dozens of cats that guard Saint Petersburg’s Hermitage museum from rodents, but has taken on a new role for the 2018 FIFA World Cup.
During the official 2018 FIFA World Cup draw ceremony at Kremlin State Palace in the Russian capital city of Moscow on December 1 last year, the host nation, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Uruguay were put in Group A in the preliminary round of the tournament.
The Iran men's national football team, nicknamed Team Melli, has joined Portugal’s A Selecção, Spain’s La Furia Roja and Atlas Lions of Morocco.
France is drawn in Group C, and is pitted against Australia, Peru and Denmark.
Argentina, Iceland, Croatia and Nigeria are drawn in Group D.
Group E consists of Brazil, Switzerland, Costa Rica and Serbia.
While the 2014 FIFA World Cup champion Germany, Mexico, Sweden and South Korea shape Group F, Belgium, Panama, Tunisia and England are in Group G.
Group H has Poland, Senegal, Colombia and Japan.
The 2018 FIFA World Cup will take place from June 14 to July 15. Russia will open the event against Saudi Arabia in a Group A fixture at Moscow's Luzhniki Stadium.
A total of 64 matches will be played in 12 venues located in 11 cities.
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