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In pictures: FIFA World Cup kicks off in Russia

“Love for football unites the entire world in one team, regardless of people's language or ideology,” Putin says.
Published Jun 15, 2018 04:50pm

Russian President Vladimir Putin officially opened the World Cup on Thursday at a ceremony in Moscow's 80,000-seat Luzhniki Stadium.

Minutes before Saudi Arabia kicked off the tournament against host nation Russia, Putin said: “I congratulate all of you at the start of the most important championship in the world.”

“Love for football unites the entire world in one team, regardless of people's language or ideology,” Putin said to thunderous cheers from the capacity crowd.

The opening ceremony included a mini-concert by British pop star Robbie Williams, who performed “Let Me Entertain You”.

Russia has left no stone unturned preparing for its most important event since the 1980 Moscow Summer Olympics, spending more than $13 billion on infrastructure in the 11 host cities.

Argentina fans look at a metro map for directions in downtown Moscow on June 14, 2018, ahead of the Russia 2018 World Cup football tournament.  — AFP
Argentina fans look at a metro map for directions in downtown Moscow on June 14, 2018, ahead of the Russia 2018 World Cup football tournament. — AFP

Bolivian President Evo Morales (3L), FIFA president Gianni Infantino (C-L) and Russian President Vladimir Putin (C-R) attend a gala-concert dedicated to the Russia 2018 World Cup football tournament at Red Square in Moscow on June 13, 2018. — AFP
Bolivian President Evo Morales (3L), FIFA president Gianni Infantino (C-L) and Russian President Vladimir Putin (C-R) attend a gala-concert dedicated to the Russia 2018 World Cup football tournament at Red Square in Moscow on June 13, 2018. — AFP

A Russian and Saudi supporter pose with a replica of the World Cup trophy. — AFP
A Russian and Saudi supporter pose with a replica of the World Cup trophy. — AFP

A football fan wearing a sombrero arrives to follow the game between Russia and Saudi Arabia on a giant screen at the Fifa Fans Fest Saint Petersburg. — AFP
A football fan wearing a sombrero arrives to follow the game between Russia and Saudi Arabia on a giant screen at the Fifa Fans Fest Saint Petersburg. — AFP

Actors perform during the opening ceremony before the Russia 2018 World Cup Group A football match between Russia and Saudi Arabia at the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow on June 14, 2018. — AFP
Actors perform during the opening ceremony before the Russia 2018 World Cup Group A football match between Russia and Saudi Arabia at the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow on June 14, 2018. — AFP

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, FIFA president Gianni Infantino and Russian President Vladimir Putin watch the ceremony. — AFP
Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, FIFA president Gianni Infantino and Russian President Vladimir Putin watch the ceremony. — AFP

A performer juggles with 3 footballs during the Opening Ceremony. — AFP
A performer juggles with 3 footballs during the Opening Ceremony. — AFP

A performer at the Opening Ceremony of the FIFA World Cup 2018. — AFP
A performer at the Opening Ceremony of the FIFA World Cup 2018. — AFP

English singer Robbie Williams (C) performs during the Opening Ceremony. — AFP
English singer Robbie Williams (C) performs during the Opening Ceremony. — AFP

Russia fans pose as they wait for the start of the Russia 2018 World Cup Group A football match. — AFP
Russia fans pose as they wait for the start of the Russia 2018 World Cup Group A football match. — AFP

Brazilian football ledgend Ronaldo waves during the Opening Ceremony. — AFP
Brazilian football ledgend Ronaldo waves during the Opening Ceremony. — AFP

Russian soprano Aida Garifullina performs during the Opening Ceremony  — AFP
Russian soprano Aida Garifullina performs during the Opening Ceremony — AFP

Performers take part in the ceremony before the Russia 2018 World Cup Group A football match between Russia and Saudi Arabia. — AFP
Performers take part in the ceremony before the Russia 2018 World Cup Group A football match between Russia and Saudi Arabia. — AFP

Russian model Natalia Vodianova (R) and Spanish goalkeeper Iker Casillas stand next to the World Cup trophy. — AFP
Russian model Natalia Vodianova (R) and Spanish goalkeeper Iker Casillas stand next to the World Cup trophy. — AFP

English singer Robbie Williams (R) and Russian soprano Aida Garifullina perform during the Opening Ceremony. — AFP
English singer Robbie Williams (R) and Russian soprano Aida Garifullina perform during the Opening Ceremony. — AFP

Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks during the Opening Ceremony for the World Cup 2018. — AP
Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks during the Opening Ceremony for the World Cup 2018. — AP

Spanish goalkeeper Iker Casillas holds the World Cup trophy during the Opening Ceremony before the Russia 2018 World Cup Group A football match between Russia and Saudi Arabia at the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow on June 14, 2018. — AFP
Spanish goalkeeper Iker Casillas holds the World Cup trophy during the Opening Ceremony before the Russia 2018 World Cup Group A football match between Russia and Saudi Arabia at the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow on June 14, 2018. — AFP